Commodore's FA Cup Picks

The first silverware of the season has been doled out and we’re onto bigger and better things. I’m not saying that the Capital One Cup doesn’t matter (I don’t need to), what I’m saying is that the FA Cup is still a trophy worth fighting for. Arsene Wenger figured that out last season, and it’s been used as a bargaining chip for more time. In truth, it’s the only competition they’re still in the running for this season after their limp display against Monaco at the Emirates in the Champions League. The same can be said of their opposition this weekend, Manchester United. Louis van Gaal’s side have scrapped their way through to the quarter-finals, but they’ll need to find more if they’re to get past the Gunners. Before that, though, we have a couple of some rather interesting ties. Let’s get to it, why don’t we?

Bradford 15/10 | Draw 22/10 | Reading 17/10
Giant-killers Bradford, fresh from ousting top-flight opponents Sunderland and Chelsea, avoided Premier League opponents this time and will instead take on second-tier Reading at Valley Parade on Saturday. The League One promotion chasers are the fairy tale side in this year’s tournament, having made the last eight for the first time since 1976. They drew a record capacity crowd for their victory over Sunderland at Valley Parade and are expected to surpass that against the Royals. Steve Clarke’s men will have their work cut out for them, and come into this one on the back of two successive 3-0 losses. They’ve struggled on the road this season, but rather surprisingly have managed to pick up wins away at four of the top eight Championship teams. These two have met on one previous occasion in The FA Cup, but Bradford’s 2-0 win in the First Round of the 1907 edition will have little bearing here. Everybody loves a good underdog story, though, so I’m sticking with the Bantams to punch above their weight once more. You can back them at 15/10, but go easy. This is the FA Cup after all.

Aston Villa | Draw 22/10 | West Brom 17/10
Writing this, as I do, on a Tuesday morning makes Saturday’s match between Aston Villa and West Brom almost impossible to analyse properly. The two will meet in a relegation dogfight on Tuesday evening and the outcome there should have a profound impact on the weekend’s cup tie. Villa aren’t a very good football side at present. They’ve won just two of their previous 23 league matches and sit second from bottom in the Premier League at the time of writing. West Brom, well they’re in a much better space than they were two months ago. Tony Pulis has recreated the success he had at Crystal Palace last season, earning results on the back of a defensively solid unit. Across seven league games as head coach at The Hawthorns, no Premier League team has had less possession than Pulis’s West Brom, who have scored only six goals but kept five clean sheets (only Liverpool can equal that record) and racked up 12 points in the process. They’ll visit Villa Park on Saturday confident of adding another clean sheet to the list against the top flight’s least dynamic attack. It won’t be a classic by any stretch, but a 1-0 victory will do for the visitors. Tony Pulis proved at Stoke that there is room for his particular ‘brand’ in the FA Cup. You can take the correct score at 13/2, or simply stick to the away win at 17/10.

Liverpool 3/10 | Draw 38/10 | Blackburn 15/2
Brendan Rodgers’ side battled from a goal behind to overcome Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park in the previous round. Their reward – a home tie against Blackburn Rovers. The last meeting between these two came at Ewood Park in April 2012 when Andy Carroll scored a 90th minute winner in a 3-2 victory after an earlier brace from Maxi Rodriguez. How times have changed. Blackburn now reside in the Championship, while Liverpool are the form side in England at the moment, following their stunning victory over the champions at the weekend. Blackburn, however, won’t be overawed. They’ve already knocked out Premier League opposition on two occasions this season, with comfortable wins over Swansea and Stoke costing me money each time. However, they’ve failed to kick on since that win over Stoke and come into this one without a win in four. Steven Gerrard should be back for the Reds, just in time for the commentators to wax lyrical about the fact that the final falls on his birthday. The footballing gods don’t give a damn. They’re a cruel and unscrupulous bunch, and on the evidence of last season, they don’t much care for ol Stevie G. Having said all that, I do expect the Reds to progress here. Ye God’s work in mysterious ways. They’re waiting for a final against Manchester United to unveil their grand ending.

Man United 13/10 | Draw 9/4 | Arsenal 19/10
The two most successful clubs in the history of the FA Cup, Manchester United and Arsenal, will close out the round at Old Trafford on Monday night. The great rivals have played each other 14 times in the competition over the years, with the wins split down the line with seven apiece. The last meeting came in 2011, at the same stage of the competition, where goals from Fabio and Wayne Rooney sealed a 2-0 success and completed a wretched week for Arsenal in which they lost the League Cup final before going out of Europe. Arsenal supporters best beware the Ides Of March. It’s usually at about this time of the season that they simply fall apart before a late surge secures Champions League football for yet another season. Strangely enough, I came into this article believing that I’d tip Arsenal here, but I’ve bene swayed. They’ve got a couple injury problems and the absence of Francis Coquelin, who’s been something of a revelation for them in midfield, is a massive blow. United do have their problems. Louis van Gaal needs to find the answer to the question: How do you solve a problem like Di Maria? But Wayne Rooney is back among the goals , and he loves playing against Arsenal. A couple week’s back I probably wouldn’t have gone for it, but I reckon the home win looks a good bet. Get on them at 13/10.

A United-Liverpool FA Cup final – now that really would be something. It’s been almost two decades since Eric Cantona’s strike through a crowd of bodies broke Liverpool heart’s in the 85th minute of the 1996 Final. I remember it like it was yesterday. Calamity James’ week attempt at a punch; the sickening cowardice of Liverpool players turning their backs on Cantona’s volley; the United celebrations that followed. Horrible stuff indeed. Well that’s about it, folks. Enjoy the footy. Sala Kahle.

Written by Commodore Vegas
Follow him on Twitter here!

FA Cup Picks
Bradford WIN 15/10
West Brom WIN 17/10
Liverpool WIN 3/10
Man United WIN 13/10