Some big games out there this weekend as 8 teams battle to get through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup. It is a surprising line-up for this stage of the competition, a lot of the Premiership’s big guns have fallen, but that is what this competition is about. This year has truly been the year of the giant killing and those doubters who thought the magic of the FA Cup was lost, may again be proved wrong if Reading can slay million-pound Manchester City. Manchester United and Arsenal also battle it out, so whatever happens this weekend, it will be an interesting final. We have the usual round-up, plus the betting tips from our resident expert Gordon Betto. So what’s the craic?
Birmingham vs. Bolton
Live on ESPN
This all-Premier League match-up is going to be one hell of a battle. Birmingham have been quite the cup team this year, already beating Arsenal in the final of the Carling Cup. But they are in the midst of an injury crisis at St Andrews; Lee Bowyer, David Bentley, Keith Fahey, Stephen Carr, Liam Ridgewell, Craig Gardner, Nikola Zigic, and Barry Ferguson are all doubts, whilst Hleb, Scott Dann, James McFadden are out…basically the whole first team. Bolton’s major loss will be the cup-tied goal machine Daniel Sturridge, but they will be looking to continue their solid season and are hungry for success. What better way could they pay tribute to the late great Nat Lofthouse than to lift this cup. Bolton have won 5 in 7 and only lost 1 in 8…big stats, but we all know form goes out of the window – Betto time:
Betto’s Banter: Two sides that love to get physical…seems the Brummie’s will be a bit short this weekend, but they can always produce at home. But for me, it has to be white…it has to be a Bolton win.
Manchester United vs. Arsenal
5.15pm Kick Off
Live on ITV 1
Wow, what a quarter final match-up, the draw occasionally throws these ones up a little early in proceedings, but what a tie between the two teams vying for the Premier League title. Both sides would have preferred to have met later in the competition, the victor won’t only go through to the semi’s, they will gain a psychological advantage in this title run-in. Man U will be without Nani, Ferdinand, Valencia, and Park Ji-Sung, but will be boosted by the return of Vidic. Arsenal have influential captain and midfielder Fabregas missing, whilst Szczesny, Theo Walcott, Alex Song and Thomas Vermaelen are all missing. This one is anyone’s game…Betto, what do you think?
Betto’s big one: I will tell you what, this is hard to call. Two great sides, best two in the country. Arsenal now out of the Champions League and hungry for a trophy, United having a wobble losing the last two. But Arsenal’s form is not much better. Vidic is key for United, Fabregas is key for Arsenal, one is back, one is out…Man United win for the fact Almunia will be in goal!
Stoke vs. West Ham
2.00pm Kick Off
Live on ITV 1
This game could be billed as the battle of the Ba’s…it’s not by the way, as there is only one Ba and he signed for West Ham. But with the Senegalese striker scoring 4 in 5 games, Stoke probably wished they had signed him. But we all know Stoke are a force at home and haven’t lost in their last 6 games, two of which were in the FA Cup. West Ham will fancy it, especially after beating Stoke 3-0 in the last game at Upton Park. Stoke will take a lot from that and will be desperate not to repeat that result, but can they cope with the rejuvenated West Ham. Betto…
Betto: Both teams will be close to full strength, but Parker is carrying a knock. Major change for Stoke will be Sorensen in goal. Another tough call, tight game and I fancy a draw, but Stoke edge a win…
Manchester City vs. Reading
4.45pm Kick Off
Live on ESPN
Reading are the only non-Premiership club in the competition and they have a huge task on their hands if they want to reach the semi’s. They come up against a City side fighting for Champions League football, who are unbeaten in 11 matches at home. So basically Reading have no chance…but what we are forgetting is that this is the cup, there is always a fairytale lurking round every corner. Talisman Tevez and Nigel De Jong look set to return for City, Matt Mills and Federici are two major losses for Reading. Fairytale or chasing tail’s for Reading…Betto it’s over to you:
Betto’s Banter: I hate these ones. Point well made with the magic of the cup and all that, but City are way too strong, surely? This has the potential to be a right coupon buster, either way I can’t see a draw. Balotelli is apparently allergic to grass or something, high maintenance or what – he chose the wrong profession, but it is a big loss for City. But City are hungry for success, sometimes class and physical attributes are too much for other teams to handle. Sorry to the Reading boys, but I am going to have to go with a City win.