Commodore's FA Picks

Perhaps it’s time to give a couple things a rethink. As I sat watching Harry Kane tear Arsenal apart as he has done to the rest of the English Premier League this season, I got to thinking, “Perhaps I misjudged this kid”. He’s never short on effort, but neither was Dirk Kuyt – that never made him a great player. I’m still hesitant to proclaim him the next English messiah, mainly because the last one – Wayne Rooney – is currently being employed as a midfielder by Louis van Gaal. Let’s hope Kane’s career doesn’t go the same way, for Spurs’ sake. Meanwhile, on the south coast, Southampton keep rolling on. They’re not winning well, but they’re winning – that’s all that matters in months like February. They could well get mowed down by the chasing pack, but credit to them for giving it a fair shot. Enough Premier League talk, though, we came for The Cup. The FA Cup that is, not the Capital One Cup – that wretched tournament that only those outside the top four consider a trophy. After the last round’s series of shocks, I’m expecting sanity to prevail and dreams to end. Call me a pessimist, everyone else already does.

West Brom 27/20 
Draw 22/10 
West Ham 19/10
Let’s kick things off with an all-Premier League clash. How does that sound? Pity it’s West Brom against West Ham, but I had nothing to do with the draw. Tony Pulis and Big Sam face-off in a battle of touchline tracksuits and route-one tendencies. While Pulis is preoccupied with the imminent threat of relegation, Sam has been dreaming of the day he gets to drink Stella Artois out of the FA Cup. I digress, though, let’s talk football. The Hammers have already won at the Hawthorns this season – a 2-1 come-from-behind victory in December. Their performance against Manchester United at the weekend showed them a good footballing side, and one that should get past West Brom here. You can get 19/10 on the away win, with Both Teams to Score at 6/10.

Blackburn 18/10 
Draw 9/4 
Stoke City 14/10
Blackburn did me good an proper against Swansea in the last round, picking up a 3-1 win to set off a day of shocks. They were helped immeasurably by Swansea’s decision to play the match with ten men from the 7th minute – a move that unsurprisingly backfired. Their reward for that victory is a home tie with Stoke, who eased past lower league Rochdale in the last round. Mark Hughes’ men are in the midst of a good run, with Peter Crouch’s late equaliser at St James’ Park extending their unbeaten run to four matches. Their record against Rovers also makes for impressive reading, having won each of the last five meetings. A continuation of that trend will get you 14/10 at the bookies – I suggest you get on that.

Derby 13/20 
Draw 11/4 
Reading 39/10
Derby and Reading will meet for the third time this season at the terribly branded iPro Stadium. Steve McClaren’s Rams have already knocked the Royals out of the Capital One Cup, and helped themselves to a 3-0 win in a Championship encounter in May. One of the scorers on that day, Jordan Ibe, has since returned to parent club Liverpool, but Derby have kept on with their push for promotion. Reading have enjoyed some steady results in recent weeks, and have lost just once since the turn of the year – a 2-1 reverse at Fulham. Despite their recent resurgence, they seem unlikely to sneak into the play-offs, leaving the FA Cup as their sole avenue for success. Unfortunately for them, I see their run coming to an end here, with 13/20 available for a home win worthy of a weekend multiple.

Crystal Palace 5/2 
Draw 24/10 
Liverpool 1/1
Liverpool were lucky to get past Bolton in the last round. Yes, they hit the post three times and conceded a dodgy pen, but it was a deflected goal that eventually saw them across the line. Steven Gerrard’s big send-off remained on course. Until Saturday that is. Gerrard an co will return to the ground where they effectively lost the league title last year, throwing away a three-goal lead in quite amazing circumstances. They then proceeded to lose 3-1 earlier this season to a Yannick Bolasie inspired performance. All this tells me is that Liverpool don’t have the guts or the know-how to grind out a result at Selhurst Park. The Gerrard narrative will end there on Saturday, in the most dramatic of circumstances. You read it here. Back the Eagles to advance at 5/2.

Aston Villa 13/10 
Draw 22/10 
Leicester City 2/1
Villa scored a league goal! Hot damn, 11 hours of waiting for a back post header. Thrilling stuff. They’ll be coming in hot against the Foxes on Saturday, with ambitions of perhaps even scoring one with the boot this time around. Let us not get ahead of ourselves, though. They did require their supporters to point out to them where the goal posts were actually situated. Leicester – well they have their own problems. Manager Nigel Pearson has his P45 at the ready and a cup exit at Villa Park should just about do it. There’s been plenty classic cup ties down the years, this won’t be one of them. In fact, I struggle to see where a goal might come from. I’m backing under 1.5 goals at 23/10 – I suggest you do the same. 

Bradford 28/10 
Draw 24/10 
Sunderland 9/10
Bradford produced the greatest comeback at ‘The Bridge’ in the last round. God was it great to watch the blue swine shift uncomfortably in their seats while their side of millionaire mercenaries was put to the sword by a bunch of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. Football ey, bloody hell. Their reward – a home tie against Gus Poyet’s Sunderland. This one isn’t likely to provide the same spectacle we witnessed in South West London, mainly because the pitch at Valley Parade resembles the fields of France during World War Two after a German shellacking. Poyet has even offered to host the tie at the Stadium of Light. How considerate of him. In the end, the match will go ahead as planned. The last match there ended 0-0 with neither side managing to wade their way to goal. Expect a similar result here, with the 0-0 draw available at 9/1.

Arsenal 9/20 
Draw 7/2 
Middlesbrough 52/10
Middlesbrough’s win at the Etihad was perhaps overlooked in the midst of Bradford’s heroics against Chelsea. I chalked this up to the fact that no one really likes Boro. I’ll give them credit for a stoic performance against the English champions, but that’s about as far as I (and them) will go. A trip to the Emirates coincide with the end of this cup run. Apart from the obvious coincidence of both matches being played at stadiums named after airlines, I expect this match to be very different. The Gunners are hurting after their loss in the North London derby. Expect a backlash. Boro have some form behind them, but Arsenal have won their last seven at home, with some swagger too. I can only see one winner. There will be no upset here – back the Gunners at 9/20 – one for the multiples.

Preston 57/10 
Draw 7/2 
Man United 4/10
Onto the final match of the round – Manchester United’s first trip to Deepdale since 1972. It’s a hot ticket, with one Jozi local even offering a kidney in exchange for a chance to watch his beloved Lilywhites face the Red Devils. The League One promotion chasers booked their place in the fifth round with a replay victory over Sheffield United, while Van Gaal’s side needed two legs to see off lowly Cambridge. On that evidence, Preston stand a good chance against the Premier League side. They’ve lost just twice at home this season in all competitions. Meanwhile, United haven’t been at their best, and are an upset waiting to happen. You can get 57/10 for a home win, which seems quite long by my reckoning. For the cautious bunch among you, the Preston double chance is available at 29/20. United aren’t going through on their first attempt, that I can assure you.

Let us remember, people, that this is the FA Cup, anything can happen. Don’t be fooled into playing hard and fast. Live betting can be your saviour, I know it’s done me a favour on more than one occasion already this season. Remember to watch your back, no one else is about to do it for you. I know these things because I’ve seen these things. A gambler in the midst of downward spiral is a sobering sight. Take my word for it and bide your time. The worm will turn. It always does. Mahalo.

Written by Commodore Vegas
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FA Cup Picks
West Ham WIN 19/10
Stoke City WIN 14/10
Derby WIN 13/20
Crystal Palace WIN 5/2
Aston Villa UND 2.5 GOALS 23/10 
Bradford DRAW 24/10
Arsenal WIN 9/20
Preston WIN/DRAW 29/20