Clock Icon Thursday, 5th January 2012

The FA Cup third round takes centre stage this weekend and all eyes are on the Man City v Man Utd match on Sunday lunchtime. This match has taken on a bigger meaning than usual what with both teams battling it out in the Premier League and the 6-1 win for City at Old Trafford earlier in the season still fresh in the memory. Like most FA Cup matches I advise you to wait till the teams are announced before having your bet. City have a big squad to choose from but it's highly likely they'll rotate with next Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final in mind.

Manchester United on the other hand don't have a huge amount of choice as regards to selection due to their current injury list, but this is a game Sir Alex Ferguson will be desperate not to lose. I thought United had turned a corner with their back to back 5-0 wins over Fulham and Wigan around Christmas, but that's clearly not the case following two successive defeats in the last week. Despite the injuries, I don't believe a club the size of Manchester United should be playing with so many players out of position, whether it's Michael Carrick in central defence, Valencia at right back or Park at left wing offering no width. As good a player Ryan Giggs still is, it seemed nonsensical playing him centrally against one of the most combatitive midfields in Cabaye and Tiote at Newcastle on Wednesday.

Manchester City still seem to rely heavily on individual brilliance rather than team-play to me and although I think that'll be good enough to win them the Premier League, they may come a cropper if having an off day in the cup as we've seen in the Champions League this season. They have an array of match-winners which means that if one player isn't on his game there's a ready made replacement who can come in and do the business. Okay, they drew successive blanks in the league before the 3-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday, but they are going to find that plenty of teams park the bus and defend deep and I expect their big players to find a way through on most occassions.   

Although I'm loathed to give a tip without knowing the starting line-ups, I'm going to air on the side of caution and go for a 1-1 draw at odds of 6/1 with Ladbrokes. I think United will want to win more than Man City given the league standings and that 6-1 hammering, it's just a question of whether they're currently good enough.

Elsewhere in the FA Cup this weekend, the TV cameras are at one of my old club's in Birmingham City as they host Wolves on Saturday lunchtime. Mick McCarthy is somewhat reknowned for chucking in some left-field team selections in the cups whilst Birmingham have shown this season that they can give anyone a game following their good run in the Europa League. It's a derby of sorts so there will be something on it and I can see this being another 1-1 draw at odds of 6/1 with William Hill.

In the live evening kick off on Saturday, Bristol Rovers host Aston Villa at the Memorial Stadium. Rovers are on a terrible run and sacked manager Paul Buckle in the week, but they do have players who are capable at that level. This is a big competition for Aston Villa, who can use it to breathe life into their season. Alex McLeish's side won't get relegated so he can use the FA Cup to give the club a bit of a lift. The TV cameras are no doubt sniffing for an upset but in all due respect, Villa should be too strong here and I'm tipping up a 2-0 win in the favour of the away team at odds of 8/1 with bookmaker Coral.

Sunday's other live game is between Peterborough and Sunderland and much like Villa, Sunderland can give this competition a real good go. I can tell you that Martin O'Neill will go with a strong line-up as he always used to with us at Leicester. Peterborough score and concede goals in equal measure and have caught the Mackems at a bad time, so I'll plumb for a 3-1 away win at odds of 16/1 with Betfred.

The final live match of the weekend is the Arsenal versus Leeds clash at The Emirates on Monday night. Leeds took Arsenal to a replay in this competition last season and have a good record against the big teams in recent years. Simon Grayson's side seem to get smashed every now and again but have the ability to bounce straight back. I'd have to see what kind of side Arsenal put out but you'd have to fancy them to win here so will go for a 2-0 home win at 7/1 with William Hill.

With so many clubs likely to rotate their squad in the FA Cup this weekend it's a real minefield in the betting. However, if you're patient and wait for the team to be announced before placing your bets there will be some outstanding value to be had. There's no treble from me this week but a few games stand out, such as Derby at home to Crystal Palace, who play Cardiff in the Carling Cup semi-final on Tuesday. There's also a tough away game for Wigan at Swindon, although Paulo Di Canio may also rest players for this match. My advice is to leave it late for this week's team news and there will be some good bets to be had.

Steve Claridge's FA Cup 3rd Round Tips

Tip #1: Man City v Man Utd (8th Jan) 1-1 correct score @ odds of 6/1 with Ladbrokes.

Tip #2: Birmingham v Wolves (7th Jan) 1-1 correct score @ odds of 6/1 with William Hill.

Tip #3: Bristol Rovers v Aston Villa (7th Jan) Villa to win 2-0 @ odds of 8/1 with Coral

Tip #4: Peterborough v Sunderland (8th Jan) Sunderland to win 3-1 @ odds of 16/1 with Betfred.

Tip #5: Arsenal v Leeds (9th Jan) Arsenal to win 2-0 @ odds of 7/1 with William Hill.

Previous Steve Claridge Football Betting Tips

Stoke a Good Bet to beat Aston Villa on Boxing Day 22 Dec 2011
Bet On Man City To Beat Arsenal 15 Dec 2011
Bet On Chelsea And Man City To Draw At Stamford Bridge 08 Dec 2011
Newcastle A Good Bet To Earn A Draw Against Chelsea 01 Dec 2011
Liverpool A Good Bet To Take Points Off City In Sundays Big Match 24 Nov 2011

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