Middlesbrough v Man City (Saturday)
Mired in the relegation zone and without even so much as a goal in their last four league games, the FA Cup has been a saving grace for Aitor Karanka. But can he possibly keep his side’s good run going against the might of Manchester City?
So far ‘Boro have beaten Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley and Oxford United. City’s cup run saw them have a bit of a hiccup against Huddersfield, the first game ending in stalemate – but Pep Guardiola’s side then won the replay 5-1 at the Etihad, and before that they had beaten Crystal Palace (3-0) and West Ham (5-0).
In the league, City drew a blank against Stoke on Wednesday, underperforming to such an extent that they could only manage one shot on target all game. They will surely be sharper for this match, however – even if recent history is against them. The Smoggies beat City at the Etihad in this competition back in January 2015. And City were held to a home draw by this side earlier this season in the Prem, too.
For all that, with the Champions League a long shot and the league already just about wrapped up, the FA Cup is Guardiola’s best hope of silverware this season. Even at the Riverside, it would be a shocker if Middlesbrough were to thwart the Spaniard’s ambitions.
City are 3/7 to win. If you’re looking for a bigger price, backing Patrick Bamford to score could be worth a look – the striker re-signed for Middlesbrough in January, after failing to make a first team appearance for previous club Chelsea.
Bamford hasn’t had much playing time at ‘Boro since his return – but in his previous time at the club, he scored the opener against City back in the 2015 Cup game. If he gets a start on Saturday, he could be worth a punt in the goalscorer market, Bamford to score at 9/2.
Arsenal v Lincoln City (Saturday)
We keep hearing that Arsene Wenger is surely set to leave this season, but if the support are unhappy, the man himself seems upbeat – Wenger insists he can turn things round at the club, pointing at Luis Enrique as an example. ‘One week he is an idiot, next he is a hero’, Wenger said. The difference being that Enrique announced his decision to leave the club after losing 4-0 to PSG – and since then has overseen a historic 6-1 defeat of the same club.
Over the same period, Wenger has lost 5-1 to Bayern Munich twice in the space of a month. Five of his last seven matches have ended in defeat. Saturday’s cup tie with Lincoln City should offer some respite – but perhaps not much.
Arsenal are obviously expected to win (and surely will) – but non-league Lincoln will be cheered on by neutrals around the country, while even some Gunners fans might prefer it if the visitors could add to Wenger’s woes. Could they at least provide a few sticky moments for the Premier League side?
On an unbeaten run of 10 games in all competitions, Lincoln have already seen off Championship title hopefuls Brighton and Premier League scrappers Burnley so far in this competition. Could the Imps inflict further damage on Arsene’s reign this week?
Arsenal are 1/15 to win, with a draw after 90 minutes perhaps worth a small tickle – it’s a 23/2 shot. Or if you believe the visitors can pull off an incredible victory, you can back Lincoln to win at 32/1.
Tottenham Hotspur v Millwall (Sunday)
It’s 27 years since these London clubs met – and nearly 80 since Millwall last claimed a win against Tottenham. You’d have to think the League One club will continue struggle at White Hart Lane on Sunday, though Neil Harris’ team will certainly be up for it; the visitors are unbeaten in 2017, and saw off Leicester to book their place in the quarter-finals here.
Spurs haven’t been beaten at the Lane all season, though, and Mauricio Pochettino’s side are clearly canny enough to see off this opposition.
Tottenham are 1/7 to win this game – if you’re looking for something with more juice, Harry Kane is the man with the golden touch right now, with eight goals in his last four matches. Kane is 49/100 to score, or 43/20 to score the first – as he did in three of those last four games.
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