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Thursday, 15th March 2012
The FA Cup resumes this weekend and first up we've got Everton against Sunderland on Saturday lunchtime. This is probably the biggest game of the season for both of these sides and that is why I can understand David Moyes' team selection against Liverpool earlier in the week. I know both of these managers and they will be taking this match very, very seriously and it's a tough one to call.
Sunderland, apart from that one poor result against West Brom, have done brilliantly but I do always think that they are better at home. They won't be a million miles away in this one and they will have plenty of support going to Goodison Park.
Both sides are pretty similar in the league and it might be a game where Everton are expected to win and are not quite at their best. They are always better against sides that are expected to beat them, so it's a tough one in that respect. Both teams will put out their strongest starting line-ups and they will be desperate to win because if they don't then their seasons are virtually over. It's a huge game and I'm going to go with Everton to nick it 2-1 at odds of 8/1 with William Hill.
Next up on Saturday afternoon is Tottenham v Bolton, both of these teams have bigger fisher to fry, one with Champions League qualification and one just to stay in the Premier League, and that's why it's a totally different game to the one we just previewed. It's still a tricky one and you've got to look at their starting line-ups. Tottenham have got Chelsea coming up and because of recent results that looks even bigger than it did before, but I still think Harry Redknapp would love another FA Cup on his CV. Spurs are the top rated side left and by all accounts if they play well then they win the competition. I know it doesn't always go like that but that's the way they've got to look at it.
For Bolton, the QPR win last weekend has taken a little bit of pressure off and they could go to White Hart Lane and enjoy the game a bit more. But if Tottenham play well and Harry selects his first team, and there's no reason why he shouldn't, then Spurs should be too strong. Tottenham have got a big week ahead and I think it's one of those where they've got to say 'all hands to the pumps' and go through by playing their strongest side against Bolton, Stoke and Chelsea. If Tottenham go strong I'm going to go for them to win 2-0 at 6/1 with Ladbrokes.
On to Sunday and it's Chelsea against Leicester. For a start, it wasn't rocket science to put out the team that they did against Napoli on Wednesday, it's their strongest team and why Andre Villas-Boas played the side he did I have no idea. Let's be honest if they'd played the right side in Napoli they wouldn't have been in the situation they were. Chelsea can't afford to go too far away from that starting eleven because I don't think they've got massive options anymore. I think there's a decent squad there but there is definitely a best eleven and that was it the other night.
They come up against a Leicester side who aren't bad and who are very, very capable on their day. They've been massively inconsistent this year when you consider the personnel but they are capable of giving Chelsea a really good game. It could be a case of after the 'Lord Mayor's Show' for Chelsea and I'm going to go for a 1-1 here, which is 11/1 with Coral.
Sunday's 4 o'clock kick-off is Liverpool against Stoke and let's be honest it's cup games that have kept Liverpool's season alive. If they hadn't won the Carling Cup Kenny Dalglish would have been facing some very difficult questions. Whatever you say about that competition it certainly doesn't hurt to win it!
Stoke are obviously taking the FA Cup very seriously after they dropped a load of players for the match against Valencia and then played them against Crawley in the last round. That gives you an indication of what Tony Pulis wants after they went so close last year and he obviously fancies a bit more of that.
This match is important for both sides as it would keep Stoke's season alive and Liverpool need it because a Champions League spot looks unlikely. The cups are all of a sudden very important to Liverpool after five or six years without a trophy and you'd expect them to be too strong this weekend and I'm going to go for a 2-0 Liverpool win at 7/1 with Ladbrokes.
Steve Claridge's Weekend FA Cup Tips
Tip #1: Everton v Sunderland (17th Mar 2012) Everton to win 2-1 @ odds of 8/1 with William Hill.
Tip #2: Tottenham v Bolton (17th Mar 2012) Tottenham to win 2-0 @ odds of 6/1 with Ladbrokes.
Tip #3: Chelsea v Leicester (18th Mar 2012) 1-1 correct score @ odds of 11/1 with Coral.
Tip #4: Liverpool v Stoke (18th Mar 2012) Liverpool to win 2-0 @ odds of 7/1 with Ladbrokes.
Steve's Weekly Treble: Sheffield United to beat Tranmere (3/5); Aldershot to beat Bradford (23/20); Bristol Rovers to beat AFC Wimbledon (10/11). A treble with bookmaker Bet Victor pays just under 6/1.
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