The magic of the FA Cup returns this weekend, and while the press will be crying out for a feast of cup-sets and drama, punters will be holding out for a week of triumphant favourites and winning accumulators.
The brains in the Paddy Power marketing team have decided once again to roll out the Accumulator Insurance – giving punters their money back as a free bet if one leg of your five-fold or more lets you down. That’s the kind of safety net we like, and we’ve built a 37/1 fivefold that has us dreaming of a tidy little win. £10 returns £380 plus a bit of loose change, and that’ll be a welcome boost to the bank balance with less than a month until the Cheltenham Festival.
Arsenal v Hull, Saturday 12.45pm, BT Sport 2
Hull are flying in the Championship this year, and Steve Bruce’s men are odds-on at 2/7 to return to the Premier League in August. In percentage terms, that means our lovely trading team on the second floor are giving Hull a 77.8 per cent chance of getting back into the top flight. Unfortunately however, their unstoppable league form might not be enough to help them get a result over the reigning back-to-back FA Cup champs Arsenal.
The Gunners have the second-best defence in the top flight, keeping 12 clean sheets in 26 games, and conceding just 23 goals. They’ve also lost just one league game at the Emirates since the opening day of the season, picking up 27 points from a possibly 39. Sprinkle Arsene Wenger’s FA Cup record against lower league clubs on top of this pro-Gunners cocktail – just one loss in 39 matches – and at Arsenal can get our accumulator off to the perfect start.
Watford v Leeds, Saturday 3.00pm
Watford are 26 places above Leeds in England’s football tiers, and that gulf in class can become very evident at Vicarage Road. Leeds have won just one of their last nine league matches in the Championship, and have picked up just one league win on the road since November 8. The Hornets on the other hand have had a very impressive season, and have shaken off a New Year blip which saw them lose four on the spin.
Watford’s record against the top six this season reads one draw and eight defeats, but it’s the record against the poorer three-quarters of the league that sticks out. 10 wins, five draws and just two defeats is evidence enough that Watford have the measure of the weaker Premier League sides, and that should fill you with enough confidence that they can do the business against a team stuck in the bottom half of the Championship. We’re backing the home side at .
Bournemouth v Everton, Saturday 5.25pm, BBC 1
It’s been a strange season for both Bournemouth and Everton. For the Toffees; They probably have one of their strongest squads in years, yet sit 11th in the table, 12 points off the top four and Roberto Martinez’s most notable achievement this year was bopping away at a Jason Derulo gig. For Bournemouth; Every unbeaten streak or good result is followed by some sort of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ where they seem desperate to be sucked back into the relegation dog-fight. The Cherries currently sit just four points off the bottom three.
So where does that leave both sides in this FA Cup clash? The two sides played out a memorable 3-3 draw at the end of November – a game that featured four of its goals in the last 10 minutes – and this could finish all square again. Both of Bournemouth’s FA Cup games this year have needed a goal in the last five minutes to avoid a replay, but we’re backing them Everton to take them back to Goodison Park after this weekend, and the draw is .
Blackburn v West Ham, Sunday 2.00pm, BT Sport 2
Slaven Bilic’s West Ham side have failed to score just once in the last nine games, and although Blackburn are strong defensively – only Burnley, Hull and Middlesbrough have conceded fewer goals this season – the Hammers should have enough quality to make it to the FA Cup quarter-finals. Don’t expect fireworks in this clash however, as 76 per cent of Blackburn’s Championship games have featured less than 2.5 goals (including the last 11 in a row) and Rovers have failed to get on the scoresheet in 43 per cent of their games at Ewood Park.
It looks set to be a close, low-scoring affair and may give us some squeaky-bum moments, but West Ham should have enough quality to edge it. The Hammers are 31 places above Blackburn in English football, and come into the match having lost just two of their last 13 league games. At West Ham can keep our acca rolling…
Chelsea v Manchester City, Sunday 4.00pm, BBC 1
Defeat in the Champions League away to PSG was Guus Hiddink’s first loss since taking over as Chelsea interim manager in December, but we’re hoping that the Dutchman can get his side back to winning ways on Sunday and secure our 37/1 fivefold. Since arriving at Stamford Bridge, Hiddink has got Chelsea playing again, winning five and drawing six of their 12 games in all competitions. Diego Costa has rediscovered his ruthless streak, finding the net eight times in the 11 games he has played under Hiddink. It’s all coming together for the Pensioners, and they couldn’t be facing Manchester City at a better time.
The Citizens are coming off back-to-back home defeats to Leicester and Tottenham and seem distracted by the circus that is surrounding them following the announcement that Pep Guardiola will be taking over from Manuel Pellegrini in the summer. City have won just once away to Chelsea in the last 23 years, and we’re hoping that another tough visit to Stamford Bridge will give Chelsea the victory at , and pocket us some hard-earned dough!