Commodore's FA Cup Picks

It’s not often that I welcome a break in Premier League action. This week is different. After taking a bath over the weekend, I say bring on “the magic of the cup”. I’m still trying to get rid of last year’s bad mojo and the cup could prove the perfect tonic. The last round made for some decent watching. Ade Akinfenwa gave a gem of an interview and West Ham’s marathon victory over Everton was decided by a keeper penalty. All disputes should be settled with ‘keeper penalties. And to top it all off, the cup final will be played on Steven Gerrard’s birthday. If that isn’t reason enough to back the Reds to lift the cup, I don’t know what is. Because if there’s one thing that English football loves more than ‘keeper penalties, it’s a narrative.

Cambridge United 11/1 draw 52/10 Man United 1/5
Things get started on Friday night as Manchester United travel to League Two Cambridge United. Having already suffered a humiliating beating at the hands of MK Dons in the League Cup, Louis van Gaal won’t be taking any chances here. There will be changes, but with a fully fit squad to choose from, United should still have more than enough to see off the minnows here. Unfortunately the 1/5 on offer doesn’t make that bet worthwhile. No upsets here I’m afraid.

Blackburn 2/1 draw 23/10 Swansea 5/4
Blackburn are another side that are hovering in the mid-table of the Championship, although they’re heading in the opposite direction. They’ve only managed one win against a side in the top half of England’s second-tier says it all. They’re not good enough. On Saturday they’ll host Swansea, who have the makings of a good cup side. If the draw favours them, I can see Gary Monk’s side getting quite deep into this year’s competition. They may have taken a savage beating at the weekend, but Blackburn aren’t Chelsea. No one is at the moment it seems. Back the Swans to progress at a rather generous 5/4.

Birmingham 27/10 draw 24/10 West Brom 19/20
West Brom got the draw they wanted at Goodison Park on Monday. They didn’t register a shot on target. Berahino, their top scorer, played as a wing back and Tony Pulis went home to sort out his cap collection with a spring in his step. He’ll need to show more ambition against Midland rivals Birmingham in the cup this weekend. The Blues have improved steadily since Gary Rowett took charge in October after an 8-0 defeat to Bournemouth. They’ve since climbed from 23rd to 11th in the Championship and booked their place in the 4th Round with a 3-2 win over Blythe Spartans. They look all set for a cup run here, and are tipped for a surprise win at 27/10.

Man City 1/4 draw 5/1 Middlesbrough 77/10
Man City did me good and proper on Sunday. My ire should sit with Arsenal and their decision to actually adapt to their opponents for once but, even then, City didn’t test Arsenal’s second-choice keeper. Expect a backlash on Saturday as they host Middlesborough. I’ve never liked Boro. They had some great players in their day like Fabrizio Ravanelli and Juninho, but any goodwill was undone by Gareth Southgate. Strange to think that six years ago Middlesborough beat City 8-1 in Sven Goran Erickson’s last game in charge. How times have changed. Enough nostalgia, though, back Pellegrini’s iteration to gain revenge.

Southampton 11/20 draw 11/4 Crystal Palace 5/1
Two in-form sides will clash at St Mary’s on Saturday in a match that has the makings of a classic cup tie. Southampton needed two legs to get past Ipswich, the reward coming in the form of a home encounter with Crystal Palace. Two weeks back this may have been considered a foregone conclusion. Not so now. Alan Pardew has transformed the London club’s fortunes, even masterminding a stunning comeback at Burnley over the weekend. Dwight Gayle grabbed a brace, his first since ripping the hearts out of every Liverpool fan in the world. Pardew has shown a willingness to have a go during his short stint, so I’m backing Both Teams to Score at even money.

Sunderland 11/20 draw 26/10 Fulham 42/10
I’ve always had a soft spot for Fulham. Maybe it was their shoebox shaped stadium on the Thames, their love for flamboyant, individualistic footballers or their owners infatuation with Michael Jackson. Perhaps it was all three. Either way, they’re not much of a football team at the moment. Luckily for them, neither are Sunderland. Having splashed £14 million on a 32-year-old Jermaine Defoe, the Black Cats could well be joining Fulham in the Championship from next season. Fulham won just four games away in the Premier League last season – one of those coming at the Stadium of Light. A repeat result will get you 4/1. While I don’t expect that to come to pass, Sunderland’s failure in front of goals is too severe to overlook. I’m backing Fulham on the double chance at evens. This one is going to a replay.

Tottenham 6/10 draw 27/10 Leicester City 9/2
Spurs should see off Leicester City in Saturday’s other all-Premier League clash. Mauricio Pochettino’s team somehow continue to win matches despite looking like a poor parody of the Argentine’s Southampton side. Leicester, for all the talk of a recent revival, are still at the foot of the Premier League table. Despite all this, I think this one will be close. It always is when Spurs are involved. Thirteen of their 22 league matches have been decided by a single goal, with seven of those coming in the form of a 2-1 win. I suggest getting on the Spurs win at 6/10 and throwing it into your multiples. For those looking a bit more exotic, you can back the 2-1 scoreline at 15/2.

Liverpool 3/10 draw 4/1 Bolton 72/10
There’s been a lot of negativity surrounding Liverpool this season. However, the cold, hard facts are this: They’re in the Capital One Cup semi-finals, FA Cup 4th Round and five points off the Champions League places. Throw in Daniel Sturridge’s impending return and things aren’t all that bad. A former ‘club legend’ comes to town on Saturday as Emile Heskey returns to the ground that made him a moderate success in England. I always root for Bolton in the cup due to a bet taken many years back involving a tattoo and two lifelong Trotters fans. But not this time. Neil Lennon’s team are diabolical on the road, so I’m backing the Reds on the HT-FT double at 17/20.

Aston Villa 13/10 draw 9/4 Bournemouth 19/10
Sunday brings with it fresh hopes of an upset as Villa host Championship leaders Bournemouth. Paul Lambert’s side are desperately low on confidence – exhibited by their failure to score against Liverpool. Meanwhile, Bournemouth come into this one with five wins from their last six matches, scoring 18 goals in the process. They’re the league’s top scorers, and in Callum Wilson, they have a player capable of firing them through to the next round. I was hoping to see them a bit closer to 5/2 for the win, but I’ll take the 19/10 on offer. Villa’s fans are starting to turn on them and things could get violent in the Midland’s on Sunday.

Brighton 9/2 draw 29/10 Arsenal 11/20
In a repeat of 2013’s thrilling Fourth Round clash, Arsenal will travel to Brighton’s Amex Stadium looking to build on their result against the champions. Much has changed for the Gulls since then, with Gus Poyet long gone and Sami Hyypia following suit recently. Ex-Newcastle boss Chris Hughton took over less than a month back, winning two of his three matches in charge so far. However, Arsenal are a decidedly tougher task than Charlton and Brentford. The Gunners are likely to rest the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla here, but with a number of players returning from fitness, Wenger has plenty to choose from. Theo Walcott got the winner in the aforementioned tie, and I wouldn’t bet against him shaking off the rust and finding the net again. Back the Gunners at 11/20 – another one more for the multiple.

I’m feeling confident about this one. So much so that I’m even going to put together a multiple. Swansea/Spurs/Bournemouth – that’ll get you 9/1. Ambitious it may be, but what’s life without taking a couple risks, ey? Unfortunately my 20/1 wager on Bafana Bafana to lift the cup is looking rather slim after Darren Keet did his best to let Algeria win. Poor fellow – if only the match had ended after that superb double save, he’d be a hero. Such is life. And such is the life of a goalkeeper. Well, anyway, enjoy the footy. I’m off. Sala Kahle.

Written by Commodore Vegas
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Commodore’s Picks
Man United WIN 1/5 
Swansea WIN 5/4
Birmingham WIN 27/10
Man City WIN 1/4
Southampton BTTS 1/1
Fulham WIN/DRAW 1/1
Tottenham WIN 6/10
Liverpool HT-FT DOUBLE 17/20
Bournemouth WIN 19/10
Arsenal WIN 11/20