The FA Cup sponsored by Budweiser (other American beers are available and just as shit) returns this weekend and where better to rekindle our love with the great competition than a cold Saturday lunchtime in Stoke? The Potters take on Manchester City in what should be the archetypal ‘clash of styles’. Stoke’s form of late has been on the slide, after the Jon Walters show against Chelsea the other week, they squeaked past Crystal Palace in extra time before they were outclassed by Laudrup’s City Slickers at the Liberty last week. City, by contrast have been in stellar form of late, David Silva has found a twinkle in his step again and Tevez and Dzeko look particularly dangerous. Mancini may well rest a couple for this game, as may Pulis but Nasri and Aguero probably have the edge over Whitehead and Owen (please Michael, don’t send us any pictures of your dusty trophy cabinet). After last season’s league encounter at ‘the Brit’, Mancini complained about Stoke’s aggressive tactics, however I expect a win for the Etihaders here. Bet 365 offer 8/11 on a City victory here and that looks as appealing as a night outside the Britannia on transfer deadline night.
Our other featured cup game takes place at Old Trafford as Manchester United take on Fulham. As we have mentioned previously, Fulham don’t travel too well, their performances outside the capital are almost as limp-wristed as a David De Gea clearance. United will undoubtedly rest a few for this one but as shown against West Ham, their strength in depth is as impressive as Sir Alex Ferguson’s wine collection. Dimitar Berbatov will however, be looking to rekindle memories of his stay in Manchester by walking around the pitch with a scowl on his face and then chain smoking in a casino. Fulham supporters have been complaining about ticket prices, however any complaints about ticketing from a club who have a ‘neutral end’ at home matches has to be taken with a pinch of salt (Harrods’ finest obviously). We fancy United (with a -1 handicap) to take the spoils here, this is available at 8/11 with Sky Bet, bite their metaphorical hand off!
Off to Italy now, a country where an oil change and a hair cut are the same thing. Serie A : Sunday lunch time brings back beautiful memories of the days of Gazzetta Football Italia. Atalanta v AC Milan may not be a classic but it is a game where money can be made (no match fixing gags here, folks). The Nerazzurri look like poor fodder at the moment (or Gnocchi as they call it in Italy). ‘Meelan’ , who have been correctly derided for the lack of quality in their squad compared to previous Rossoneri outfits, currently stand in sixth place, they need to go on a run of extreme proportions to keep their place in the pig’s trough of the Champions League next season. At the moment, that hope looks as forlorn as Silvio Berlusconi inviting Colin Murray to one of his special parties. Despite that, they are still more than good enough to win this one. Bet365 offer 11/10 on a win for Milan. Magnifico.
Off to the Basque region now, as Athletic Bilbao take on Atletico Madrid, an Athletic derby if you like. A repeat of last year’s Europa League final, in which Bilbao were beaten 3-0 and were well and truly Falcao-ed. They met in the league in August at the Estadio Vicente Calderon and Madrid won this won 4-0 (Falcao hat trick). Are we sensing a pattern here?? Bilbao don’t travel particularly well, it’s a Basque thing and Falcao will be eyeing this game with the excitement of Guillem Balague in a chorizo factory. Mucho, mucho. You can back Atletico at 2.48 with Betfair and that is what you call value ‘mis amigos’ – if you want to improve your value get NextBet’s Colombian poster boy in on your scorecast.
Hope you’ve found some wisdom to point you in the right direction and away from the Eurotrash. I’m off to a parallel universe with giant ballboys, Jimmy Kebe, Gab Marcotti in Harry Redknapp’s Land Rover. See you on the other side (of the transfer window).
By Jamie Ellis