Manchester United and Sunderland face potential giant-killings in FA Cup 5th Round

Love is in the air this weekend, and I don’t mean the cheap Valentines Day booze-up and romp you regret nine months later. No, open your hearts, put down those homemade 50 Shades-inspired whips and chains, and rejoice as the magic of the FA Cup comes hurtling back with all the mystique of a Silent Witness episode.

In truth, last time out proved to be quite the upset as Chelsea were felled at home by League One opposition Bradford City (more on them soon), and the number of Premier League teams left in the competition were reduced to 10.

 

Out are big-hitters Chelsea and Manchester City, who have appeared in five of the last six finals, concentrating their efforts on league glory instead.

And now, just two rounds away from the Wembley showpiece, thoughts of the smaller clubs will start to turn towards the rare possibility of following in the footsteps of recent finalists Millwall and Cardiff. Two teams in particular will be hoping to do their best David impersonation as they take on top tier Goliaths.

 

Bradford City v Sunderland Betting Odds:

Bradford win 5/2

Sunderland win 19/20

Draw 23/10

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Bradford welcome Sunderland to Valley Parade for the first game between the two teams in 12 years. While the visitors’ ability should see them through, Bradford have pedigree in similar situations to these. In 2013 they overcame Premier League clubs Arsenal, Aston Villa and Wigan to reach the League Cup final. Although that proved a bridge too far, with the Bantams losing to Swansea 5-0, Bradford’s capacity to cause a shock result should not be doubted, having beaten Chelsea in the previous round.

Currently two places outside the League One play-offs, the Yorkshire club has lost only two of its last 17 games across all competitions, winning 10. And if they come out swinging like their co-chairman over the BBC’s decision not to show the tie, then we should be in for a full-blooded slugfest on Sunday afternoon.

 

In Sunderland’s case, this fixture could offer the respite needed from the doom surrounding their league campaign. Sitting a mere two points off the bottom three, Tuesday night’s loss to relegation rivals Queens Park Rangers will have dented their confidence further heading into the sell-out away FA Cup fixture.

But a game against lower league challengers provides the perfect opportunity for retribution, and a chance to improve their mind-set with a convincing win ahead of a crucial couple of months.

In all likelihood, it’ll be an attritional contest, fought out on a pitch resembling a tattered old rug won by the side with greater fitness and talent. Yet with Sunderland in need of shoring up their defensive errors that have seen them slip in the new year following a defiant November run, and struggles at the other end – even the January arrival of 32-year-old striker Jermain Defoe hasn’t mended Sunderland’s goal-woes – there’s every chance of a surprise.

 

Monday night’s prospect of Preston North End versus Manchester United should finish predictably too, but Preston’s manager Simon Grayson has form when it comes to defeating United. Five years on from his League One Leeds side stunning Manchester United thanks to a Jermaine Beckford winner, Grayson is hoping to repeat the feat.

Preston may not be on the kind of form Leeds were then, where they went into the game unbeaten in 17 matches, however they do reside comfortably in fourth place of League One with the third tightest defence in the third tier. Although struggling for goals in the league, Preston forward Paul Gallagher is the Cup’s leading scorer, and with United having conceded in six of their last eight league matches, he may well add to that tally.

 

For United the FA Cup has been a kind affair, though unnecessarily difficult to progress in, requiring a replay to defeat Cambridge United. In the midst of journalists and supporters bickering over whether they are a long-ball side and limp wins, United have crawled their way to third in the division. They have lost just once in 18 games in all competitions and manager Louis van Gaal seems content now to use a Plan B where essential.

It may well be another tough watch, but we can’t see past United leaving victorious and through to the quarter-finals having jinked past Premier League draws en route.

Betting Instinct tip – Paul Gallagher to score at any time is 10/3 with Coral.co.uk

 

FRANCIS KELLYfrancis avatar is a sports writer who has contributed to the Independent, the Guardian and The Cricketer magazine. He can be found waxing lyrical about Norwich City on Twitter

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Juan Mata to make the difference at Old Trafford tonight?

Manchester United record signing Juan Mata likely to debut at Old Trafford tonight

Manchester United record signing Juan Mata likely to debut at Old Trafford tonight

The roar from the Old Trafford faithful at the start of tonight’s Manchester United v Cardiff Premier League clash is going to be a deafening one as they welcome one new and one old face to the Theatre of Dreams this evening. Juan Mata has signed on for a club record fee of £37.1m and David Moyes along with the Man Utd fans will be hoping that the diminutive Spaniard can create chances and goals for the strikers to lead them back towards the top of the table.

One man that will be hoping that Mata does not succeed for tonight at least will be the man in charge of the opposition, and one half of the pairing that brought the European Cup to Old Trafford in 1999 with that late, late comeback against Bayern Munich at Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium, in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He’s guaranteed a massive cheer from the crowd, but will he manage to direct his side in such a way that that sees Cardiff City take points away Manchester United this evening?

GR88.com don’t see it happening and their Man Utd v Cardiff match odds see Juan Mata and co. running away with things tonight.

Man Utd v Cardiff Odds:

Home Victory – 1.22

Draw – 6.20

Away Victory – 14.00

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Cardiff are the massive outsiders for victory this evening with good reason and this is that they have managed to secure just a single point in their last six Premier League games, at home to Sunderland in a 2-2 draw. They have won just once in their last 12 matches, again at home as they defeated West Brom 1-0, and their away form in the league has seen six defeats in their last eight matches. The other two saw them draw 0-0 at Stoke and Norwich, while this eight game winless streak has seen just four goals scored.

United are in equally poor form as they have lost four of their last six games, beating only Swansea and Sunderland in this time. The second of these two wins came in the Capital One Cup Semi Finals, but they still were eliminated from the competition in a penalty shootout. This run of form will have United short on confidence, but David Moyes will hope that the big name signing of Mata this week will have the desired effect of boosting morale, while Marouane Fellani, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie all returned to training this week so are likely to at least make the bench tonight. This is sure boost confidence even further, but will it see them take all three points tonight?

Cardiff last won at Old Trafford in 1954, but they did manage to take a point at the Cardiff City Stadium earlier this season as they scored a late, late equaliser. However, with the return of the trio of Rooney, van Persie and Fellani adding to the arrival of Mata tonight I really see United cruising to victory in front of their own fans this evening.

Back Manchester United to win and there to be at least three goals in the match @ 1.69 in the GR88 Sportsbook!

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Can Man United overturn a 2-1 deficit in the Capital One Cup tonight?

Fabio Borini celebrates scoring the winner in the first leg of this tie at the Stadium of Light

Fabio Borini celebrates scoring the winner in the first leg of this tie at the Stadium of Light

Although United made the last 16 of the Champions League and are one of three sides remaining in the Capital One Cup at this time, most people would agree that this season has been one disaster after another for the defending Premier League champions. They are 14 points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal after 22 matches of the Premier League season and were eliminated from the FA Cup, a competition they have won on 11 occasions, at the first hurdle by Swansea City. They can reach the final of the Capital One Cup still, but they need to turn around a 2-1 deficit after losing the first leg at the Stadium of Light two weeks ago against a side sitting second bottom of the Premier League.

Can the United turn things around? They certainly have the players to do so, but does David Moyes have the dressing room motivation to get the hosts at Old Trafford this evening out of a four losses in five game slump? GR88.com believe so as they favour a comfortable home win this evening, but will United, unlike on so many occasions this season, live up to expectations?

Man United v Sunderland Odds:

Home Victory – 1.28

Draw – 5.00

Away Victory – 8.80

(Odds provided by GR88.com are current as of today but subject to change.)

While the 2013 portion of this season was poor for United domestically, 2014 has been an utter shambles as they have lost four of the five games played so far and they are clearly struggling right now. They have missed Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie for four and ten matches respectively and their recent form has shown how vital they are to the side despite four goals between Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez in this poor five game run. Both the English and Dutch strikers are in line for a return this evening, but will they be (a) fit enough to play and (b) able to make an impact if they play? David Moyes will be hoping for a return to form from these two players, and if they hit the ground running I feel United deserve to be the favourites to win this match. The big questions are can they do this and will the rest of the team be up to their standards if they do?

Sunderland will hope not on both counts, but even if United do come out firing tonight Gustavo Poyet’s men will still be confident about getting a result that will see them face Manchester City in the final at Wembley on March 2nd. They have won three and drawn one of their last four matches, scoring 13 goals in this time, and have suffered just a single defeat in their last ten matches in all competitions. Things were looking bad for Sunderland for much of the first half of the season, but Poyet has stabilised the ship and is turning it around, with them now sitting just one point behind Fulham in the 17th place in the league and just above the relegation zone. Victory tonight will boost their confidence even further and see them feel they can move out of the relegation zone for the first time since August, but can they progress against all the odds?

The first leg win at the Stadium of Light two weeks ago was the first time that Sunderland had managed to defeated Manchester United since 1997 and they would love to get back to back wins over the Premier League champions tonight. However, their last away win at Old Trafford came in 1968 and it was 1950/51 when they last won back to back matches against the Red Devils. United certainly aren’t the team that they once were, but will they allow the Capital One Cup to slip away from their grasp just like the FA Cup and Premier League this season?

I certainly don’t see United as being as large favourites as the match odds suggest, even less so if Rooney and van Persie do not play tonight, and with Sunderland having found some fine form of late I certainly see them doing some damage to United this evening. Both teams will realistically need to go and get goals this evening if they are to assure their place in the final and I can see both of these sides finding the net at least once at Old Trafford tonight.

Back both Manchester United and Sunderland to score in this Capital One Cup semi final match this evening @ 1.94 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Chelsea Favoured to Win the Big Game this Super Sunday!

Juan Mata celebrates the winner at Old Trafford as Chelsea won 1-0 last season.

Juan Mata celebrates the winner at Old Trafford as Chelsea won 1-0 last season.

The big game in the 22nd round of Premier League football comes from Stamford Bridge as Chelsea welcome the defending champions Manchester United. This season has been a massive change for both teams with the return of Jose Mourinho at the London based side seeing them become realistic title challengers again, while United are in freefall as they sit seventh in the table and 11 points behind the league leaders before the weekend’s action has begun.

Chelsea are the favourites to win this home clash with the champions thanks to a home record that has seen them win nine and draw one of their last ten matches in a run that has seen them unbeaten in domestic action and lose only once to FC Basel in the Champions League. The match odds for this Chelsea v Manchester United match from GR88.com make the hosts the odds on favourites, but can they live up to this favourites billing and go a sixth game unbeaten against David Moyes’ men?

Chelsea v Manchester United Match Odds:

Home Victory – 1.70

Draw – 3.50

Away Victory – 4.80

(Odds provided by GR88.com are current as of today but subject to change.)

Last summer Jose Mourinho had his heart set on taking over the hot seat at Old Trafford following the announcement of Sir Alex Ferguson that he was taking his retirement from the sport, but the Portuguese manager who has won everything possible in football was overlooked for David Moyes by the Manchester United board. You can be sure that Mourinho will want to show these people what they missed out on by having his boys in blue put in one of their best performances of the season to pile more pressure on Moyes and the Red Devils.

United have struggled against Chelsea recently and are without a win since October 2012 when a controversial goal from Javier Hernandez saw them snatch a 3-2 victory at Stamford Bridge and with Chelsea’s form in front of their own fans this season being massively impressive United will need to work hard if they are to upset the odds this weekend. As well as having won 11 of their 13 home matches this season Chelsea are unbeaten in 70 matches at Stamford Bridge when Mourinho has been in charge of the team so they will confident of victory this weekend and with United’s recent performances I am confident of Chelsea winning this match as well.

United may have ended their three match losing streak last weekend as they claimed revenge against Swansea with a 2-0 win in the Premier League following their defeat in the FA Cup at Old Trafford by the same opponents. However, United very hit and miss this season and with them missing both Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney this weekend I cannot see them getting anything at Stamford Bridge like so many other sides this season. As a result, my pick of the day from this Chelsea v Manchester United match is back the home win.

Back the home win in this Chelsea v Manchester United match at Stamford Bridge @ 1.70 at GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Man United Favoured to Take the Advantage at the Stadium of Light

 

David de Gea saves late on to see United beat Sunderland 2-1 this season.

David de Gea saves late on to see United beat Sunderland 2-1 this season.

Sunderland and Manchester United meet for the second time this season in this first leg of the Capital One Semi Finals following the bursting onto the football scene of Adnan Januzaj as his 77 minute appearance brought two goals and all three points for David Moyes’ men. This has been one of the few high points for United this season and they will be desperate for a repeat of this result at the Stadium of Light tomorrow evening, but will they be able to claim the advantage in this Capital One Cup Semi Final?

GR88.com believe so as they favour the away win for United, who have won all of the last six meetings with Sunderland are unbeaten against them since 1997, a run of 23 matches. GR88.com’s Sunderland v Manchester United match odds are as below.

Sunderland v Manchester United Odds:

Sunderland Victory – 4.40

Draw – 3.35

Manchester United Victory – 1.66

(Odds provided by GR88.com are current as of today but subject to change.)

Sunderland’s progress through this tournament has been relatively straight forward for a side that sits bottom of the Premier League as they have recorded 4-2 and 2-0 wins over lower league opposition in the MK Dons and Peterborough before seeing off fellow Premier League sides Southampton and Chelsea to reach the final four stage. They were 2-0 up against Southampton before an 89th minute goal from the Saints saw them sweat before making the last eight where they trailed Chelsea until the 88th minute and despite Chelsea creating chance after chance it was the Black Cats that booked their place in the Semi Finals with a 118th minute goal to win the tie. Their league form has not been good, but they have not lost in either cup this season so will they be able to upset the odds today and move into the final?

United are not having a great season under their new management as they sit only 7th in the Premier League and were eliminated from the FA Cup at Old Trafford by Swansea at the weekend as William Bony scored an injury time winner for the Welsh side. They have now lost four of their last six matches and are certainly not striking fear into the hearts of their opposition as they once did, but with wins over Liverpool, Norwich and Stoke City in the Capital One Cup without a goal conceded they look to have fixed their attentions on claiming this trophy as a priority. Can they draw on their 17 year unbeaten run against Sunderland to see them bring an advantage back to Old Trafford for the second leg of this tie?

I am of the feeling that the odds on this match are correct as United, despite all their faults this season, are looking impressive in the Capital One Cup this season and are likely to take an advantage back to Old Trafford. Sunderland, however, are a gritty side and will dig deep in this match to ensure they are still in the running to make the final in the second leg. I can certainly see both of these sides finding themselves on the scoresheet in this match and I would not be surprised to see Sunderland get something from the game, but I feel the value is to be had on the goals market.

Back both Sunderland and Manchester United to score in this Capital One Cup Semi Final First Leg game @ 1.77 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Manchester United Manager Moyes Can See Off Threat of Former Club Everton

Everton's Romelu Lukaku (left) scored a hat-trick on his last visit to Old Trafford

Everton’s Romelu Lukaku (left) scored a hat-trick on his last visit to Old Trafford

Before I start, I’d like everyone to know that only the other day I picked more than 2.5 goals in both the Manchester City v. Swansea and Hull v. Liverpool games, Sporting Lisbon and Rubin Kazan to win, and a draw in the Tottenham v. Manchester United match. Fifty whole dollars richer, I think I know a thing or two about sports betting. I’d have recommended you bet on those games, but giving tips for games that have already been played isn’t allowed. Onwards and upwards. Well, onwards, anyway.

Manchester United v Everton

David Moyes never beat Manchester United while manager of Everton, but that doesn’t matter because now he manages Manchester United. Robin van Persie should be the difference at Old Trafford, with six goals and five assists in 10 starts against the Toffees, though he is not a certainty to start. It should be a close match: Romelu Lukaku is an obvious threat, scoring a hat-trick in his last game against Manchester United, and Everton have a good away record under Roberto Martinez. Having completed a short appraisal of Everton’s credentials, United’s home record against the boys formerly known as David Moyes’ boys – no defeats in their last 20 games – points towards an almost inevitable result. United win.

Manchester United v Everton Betting Odds
Manchester United to win – 1.67
Draw – 3.75
Everton to win – 4.75
Quoted odds are posted by Intertops Sportsbook as of today.

Liverpool v Norwich City

Liverpool are odds on to beat Norwich at Anfield, but then it’s going to take a few more games in the league/seasons of Being Liverpool before we all figure out whether we’re looking at the Liverpool of 2011, or the Liverpool of a few weeks ago when they were good. Fail to beat Norwich, and we shouldn’t worry about the sky falling in – this is Liverpool, after all. They’ve conceded six in their last two games to Everton and Hull, but Brendan Rodgers’ men have a strong defensive record at home and most would expect Luis “Seven in Three Matches Against Norwich” Suarez to find the net, especially against opposition who can’t score goals, but are good at letting them in. Liverpool win.

Betting Instinct Tip: Liverpool to win and keep a clean sheet is 2.10 with GEObet.com

Max avatarMAX GRIEVE is Australian, but keep reading. He likes football, rugby union and tennis, though has given up on his dream of being a tri-sport athlete/exciting millionaire. He supports Liverpool, and is ashamed for doing so.

Tottenham looking for Manchester revenge at White Hart Lane on Sunday

Lots of Premier League action this weekend but the match to watch is in London on Sunday.  Tottenham took a beating on  Man City turf last weekend and this week the North London team hosts Man United at White Hart Lane.

Bookmakers seem to think the home team will prevail with odds on Tottenham at 2.60 and Man United 2.56.

 

(Quoted odds were posted by GR88.com and are subject to change.)