- Premier League
Goal.com Predicts: Chelsea 1-0 Birmingham, Sunderland 1-0 Arsenal, Stevenage 1-2 Tottenham, Liverpool 3-0 Brighton
Our reporters believe that the Mackems will avenge last week's last-gasp league defeat whilst Harry Redknapp will keep himself in the England frame by avoiding a giant killing
|Bet:||Returns:||Chelsea £17.30||Draw £36.00||Everton £48.00|
|Bet:||Returns:||Chelsea £17.00||Draw £37.50||Everton £50.00|
|Bet:||Returns:||Chelsea £17.00||Draw £40.00||Everton £55.00|
The FA Cup is back this weekend as the fifth round takes centre stage with seven Football League clubs facing Premier League opposition as the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs look to avoid the proverbial giant-killing.
Andre Villas-Boas’ men will be looking to get back to winning ways against Birmingham City, following defeat to Everton last weekend, and with an all-important Champions League test in Napoli lined-up a few days later, the Championship outfit will fancy their chances of causing an upset.
Everton, Bolton and Norwich City all face tricky ties against second-tier opposition with Owen Coyle's men, who travel to Millwall, under pressure to get a result following their disappointing loss at home to fellow Premier League strugglers Wigan last time out.
Following their humiliation in Milan in midweek, Arsene Wenger will be hoping to pick up his Arsenal side for the trip to Sunderland as they face the Black Cats for the second time in a week having beaten Martin O'Neill's side 2-1 last Saturday.
Elsewhere Harry Redknapp’s side, so impressive in their 5-0 win over Newcastle, will be looking to avoid an upset at Stevenage while Stoke City and Liverpool both face lower-league opposition in the form of Crawley and Brighton respectively.
So ahead of the weekend's FA Cup fixtures, Goal.com's team expert of reporters are on hand to offer up their predictions...
WAYNE VEYSEY SAYS...
With the pressure on him at its most intense in his eight-month reign, all eyes will be on Andre Villas-Boas at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Even at the best of times, the Portuguese cuts an agitated figure with his expansive range of touchline gymnastics. Should a regulation home FA Cup tie develop into a nail-biter, the 34-year-old's dugout routine could be as interesting as the action on the pitch.
Any TV director worth their salt will have a camera trained specifically on the Chelsea manager as he lives every pass and tackle on the touchline.
Villas-Boas' future is not likely to be decided by the result of a domestic cup tie - Roman Abramovich's over-riding priority is the Champions League - but his position will be strengthened if Chelsea are in the quarter-final draw ahead of next week's crucial trip to Napoli.
ALEX FISHER SAYS...
It has to be said that I am looking forward to seeing his Blackpool side face Everton this weekend, mainly due to the entertaining figure of Ian Holloway.
The Toffees are beginning their annual second half of the season spurt with wins against Chelsea and Manchester City in recent times, and Goodison is starting to become something of a fortress again.
But don’t discount the Championship side, their away form is strong and they have a deadly duo of Phillips’ upfront that will scare any defence. Youngster Matt Phillips has been something of a revelation for the Seasiders, but no-one has been surprised at the impact of veteran Kevin Phillips since his summer move from Birmingham.
I expect Blackpool to attack from the start but I think Everton will have just a little bit too much for them and will progress to the next round.
JAY JAFFA SAYS...
The FA Cup has taken on a higher meaning for Bolton in recent years. The four-time winners, and last season's semi-finalists, head to Millwall on Saturday, very much in need of a win to boost confidence in a campaign that has already seen 17 losses in the Premier League.
It's hard to judge the security of Owen Coyle's position. Results suggest he should be on the cusp of getting the boot and one suspects a loss at the Championship side could prompt the board in delivering that decision.
For the home side, this represents an opportunity to fill The Den for the visit of the Premiership big shots. It's not a glamour tie but a win will be remembered as a 'cupset' in a tournament that has seen the Lions storm to the final in 2004 under Dennis Wise.
Although Kenny Jackett's side are struggling in the Championship and have won just seven home games out of 19 this season, the FA Cup is a different ball game and I'm backing Millwall to claim a priceless scalp.
OLIVER PLATT SAYS...
Both of these two clubs have suffered the unthinkable in recent times in the form of relegation to League One. Both proceeded to bounce back in style at the first time of asking but, unlike Norwich, Leicester's progress has somewhat stalled since.
Despite spending heavily during the summer in a bid to launch a promotion push, Sven-Goran Eriksson left the King Power Stadium after just 13 league matches by mutual consent. Nigel Pearson, who delivered the Foxes' League One title, has returned and if his January business is anything to go by, he will ignore the wealth of the club's owners and look to acquire young, hungry players to drive the club forward.
There are no quick fixes in football and Leicester are still working out their identity. They have made a sensible appointment in Pearson but still have too much to work out to make a real dent in league or cup competitions this season.
ROB STEWART SAYS...
Arsene Wenger’s men will be suffering from a severe lack of confidence, not to mention mentally and physically jade, and could well be there for the taking on Wearside, especially without the very real chance of missing personnel.
With Sunderland having had a week free of competitive football since the north London side won 2-1 at the Stadium of Light, they will be raring to go and a bad week will probably take a turn for the worse for the visitors.
JOE DOYLE SAYS...
Stoke have struggled up against lower league opposition in the cup this season, having to come from a goal down to beat Gillingham, and such challengers don't come much stronger than Crawley Town at the moment.
The (other) Red Devils are flying high at the top of League Two, but have to cope with the loss of leading goalscorer Matt Tubbs in the January transfer window. Tubbs had been the catalyst for much of Crawley's success over the past two years, scoring 40 goals for the club last season and propelling them into the fifth round both this and last year, including the headline-grabbing tie against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Crawley manager Steve Evans has already replaced Tubbs with Championship level players in Blackpool's Billy Clarke and loaned Arsenal's Sanchez Watt, who scored two goals on his home debut last week against Cheltenham.
It'll be a difficult game for Stoke. Crawley prepare very well for big games, and the pitch could be tricky with a game called off recently due to a frozen pitch. However, I think their Premier League experience should see them through a tough encounter.
JAMIE DUNN SAYS...
If Tottenham are expecting anything like a walk in the park at the Lamex Stadium against League One Stevenage on Sunday, they are in for a rude awakening.
The play-off candidates, who have moved into the third tier of the Football League with back-to-back promotions, are notoriously difficult to beat, on an impressive run of just one defeat in 20 games, and of course have FA Cup pedigree, having knocked out Newcastle last season and Reading in the third round this year.
It would not be entirely surprising if Stevenage pulled off an upset on Sunday, but Spurs are likely to field a side close to full strength and, barring a shaky performance akin to the fourth round display against Watford, Harry Redknapp’s side should have more than enough quality to see them through to the quarter final.
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