FA Cup Semi-Finals & Premier League Matchday 31: Pochettino’s Men can Make History
The 3rd Round of the FA Cup remains one of the most eagerly anticipated weekends of the domestic football season and Friday’s 230th Merseyside Derby between Liverpool and Everton looks the tie of the round.
I’ve once again shared my thoughts exclusively with BetVictor on the best of the action.
Liverpool will set a new record of 16 games unbeaten against their neighbours Everton if they avoid defeat on Friday and it is hard to look beyond the Reds in their current form.
The sides have met on 23 previous occasions in the FA Cup – including in two finals – with the Reds winning 10, the Blues 7 and 6 draws. Sadio Mane and Mo Salah will be in Ghana for the African Player of the Year award on Thursday, but they will be back in time for kick-off although one or both may start from the substitutes’ bench.
Everton were poor against Manchester United on New Year’s Day and have been knocked out at this stage of the competition twice in the last three seasons – I expect the Reds to add to their Cup woes at Anfield.
Tip: Liverpool -1 on the handicap at 11/10
It is good news that Romelu Lukaku could return to the United squad as early as Friday night following the news that the head injury he picked up against Southampton last weekend is not serious.
United played well at Goodison on Monday and I expect them to have far too much for a Rams’ side who sit second in the Championship and are likely to prioritise promotion over a long Cup run.
Tip: United to win to nil at 20/23
City are likely to play a strong side against Burnley as they chase an unprecedented four major trophies this season.
Burnley have been drawn away from home in the 3rd Round 12 times in the last 16 seasons and I’m afraid I cannot see past another early Cup exit for the Clarets at the Etihad. City play the first leg of their League Cup semi-final midweek and this might be a good opportunity for Yaya Toure to get a rare start for City and perhaps get his name on the scoresheet.
Tip: Yaya Toure to score at anytime at 23/10
Wolves march on in the Championship and a 12-point lead at the top of the table suggests they will be playing Premier League football next term. Wolves’ did of course win at Stoke and Liverpool in the FA Cup Cup last season and drew 0-0 with City in the League Cup earlier this season before losing out on penalties.
Swansea are playing their ninth successive away game in the FA Cup and PL survival is their priority.
Tip: Wolves to win at 3/4
Norwich have never progressed in four previous FA Cup ties against Chelsea and the champions are expected to go through to the 4th Round at the first time of asking in what promises to be an entertaining clash.
Michy Batshuayi has a good record against lower league opposition in Cup competitions for the Blues and it would be no surprise to see the Belgian striker play a key role at Carrow Road.
Tip: Chelsea to win and both teams to score at 2/1
Spurs have failed to reach the 4th Round just once in the last 11 seasons and it is hard to see the Dons bucking that trend in the club’s second ever competitive visit to Wembley.
AFC Wimbledon beat Plymouth 2-0 in the 2016 League Two Play-Off Final on that occasion, but they are likely to come up short against a Spurs side who should have too much class for Sunday’s visitors.
Tip: Spurs -2 on the handicap at 17/20
Arsenal have beaten Forest in the FA Cup on two previous occasions back in 1978/9 and 1992/93 and the Gunners went on to lift the Trophy in both of those campaigns.
Forest have only won one of their last 14 games against Arsenal in all competitions and, surprisingly perhaps, Arsene Wenger has never lost at the 3rd Round stage of the competition. Hard to look beyond a good win for the Gunners.
Tip: Arsenal halftime/fulltime at 13/10
A great win for Palace at St Mary’s midweek and the Eagles continue to go from strength-to-strength under Roy Hodgson.
This promises to be a tight, feisty affair between these two great rivals and I think Palace will get a draw on Monday night and take the Seagulls back to Selhurst Park for a replay.
Tip: Game to finish in a draw at 85/40
Michael’s weekend Cup wager: Liverpool, Wolves and Arsenal at 10/3