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Blackburn v Man Utd: Stroll in the Park for Mourinho

Blackburn v Man Utd
Sunday 19 February, 16:15
Live on BT Sport 2

Blackburn


Rovers sit second bottom of the Championship and the market says they're not getting out of it, their relegation odds a grim 1.73.

They've reached round five of the FA Cup for the third straight season via a 2-1 win at QPR (lost 10 of their last 15) and a 2-0 home success over 10-man Blackpool (12th in League Two).

In other words, they haven't exactly been pulling up trees in the FA Cup either, although fair play to Rovers for making it this far when it would have been easy (or sensible?) to prioritise Championship survival.

Probably the kindest thing to say about Rovers is that they can score a few at home (24 is just one less than top six duo Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday) and have managed three wins and a draw in their last five matches at Ewood Park.

And the best evidence we have of them against a decent team is positive. Yes, Blackburn have beaten Newcastle home and away this season.

The home success came on January 2nd so is still fresh in the memory. This is a massive step up though.

Man Utd

United have won both their FA Cup ties this season by 4-0 margins. These were the two starting XIs sent out by Jose Mourinho...

Man Utd v Wigan: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Smalling, Rojo, Schweinsteiger, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan, Rooney, Mata, Martial.

Man Utd v Reading: Romero, Blind, Rojo, Smalling, Young, Carrick, Fellaini, Martial, Rooney, Mata, Rashford.

Zlatan, Paul Pogba, David De Gea and Ander Herrera are likely to be rested again but United have plenty of cards to shuffle.

United have won 13 and drawn three of their last 17 games and Mourinho will know that this tournament represents another decent chance to add to the haul of 23 trophies he's lifted with Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid.

He won the FA Cup just once with Chelsea (2006/7), beating United in the final, so a 10-year anniversary is due.

Match Odds

It's 10.50 for Blackburn to pull off a huge shock against their north west rivals. Man Utd are just 1.35 to reach the last eight while it's 5.60 for the draw and a replay at Old Trafford.

This fixture was last played in April 2012 when United ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young.

United lost the title on goal difference to Man City that season while Blackburn were relegated. Man Utd also won 2-0 in the last FA Cup meeting between the pair in 1984/5.

To Score

Only Barnsley and basement dwellers Rotherham have conceded more Championship goals in front of their own fans than Blackburn (24) so United's frontmen should be licking their lips.

Marcus Rashford could get the nod here but, like Jamie Vardy, he has the unenviable record of having scored in just one domestic game since September. At least that came in the FA Cup when he netted a brace against Reading.

One interesting name on the Blackburn side is Charlie Mulgrew. He got the winner in both games against Newcastle and is a threat from set-pieces.

Odds of 12.50 are dangling if you fancy Mulgrew to rise to the occasion once more while he's 40.00 to net the game's opener (as he did twice against the Magpies).

Correct Score

It's not too hard to arrive at 2-0 the more you look at this game.

United have kept clean sheets in their last five games, they don't exactly score goals by the shedful like Liverpool or Man City have done this season and an away game suggests the count may come down from the four they managed at home against Reading and Wigan.

The 2-0 has some handy historical precedents but of far more importance is the fact that it's a very Mourinho scoreline. Get the first goal, defend it, get the killer second and see the game out.

In their recent run of 13 wins in 17, the 2-0 has landed in three of their seven away games. They also beat Watford by that scoreline at Old Trafford last time.

I like to go a goal either way with correct scoreline betting so add in 3-0 which is nearly a couple of points higher than the 1-0. United have only had a single 1-0 away win this season while they've won 3-0 in two of their last three outings so the three-goal margin looks the way to go, especially as Blackburn let in so many at home.

Split stakes and half a point each on 2-0 and 3-0.

Ref Watch

Unless he jets off to Saudi Arabia before Sunday, Martin Atkinson will be the man in the middle.

The West Yorkshire official has shown 97 yellows and a red in his 26 games this season so averages under four cards per match.

He booked two United players (Pogba, Bailly) in their 4-0 humbling at Chelsea and Danny Blind in the 3-1 home win over Sunderland.

Recommended Bets

Back Man Utd to win 2-0 at 7.20
Back Man Utd to win 3-0 at 9.40

Wolves v Chelsea: Visitors will move closer to Double glory

Wolves v Chelsea
Saturday, 17:30
Live On BT Sport 2

Wolves

Wolves pulled off the shock of the fourth round when they beat Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield, having knocked out Stoke in the previous round. Now they have another tough assignment ahead, after been drawn against the Premier League leaders Chelsea.

Their recent form doesn't suggest that they will produce another surprise. Wolves' loss at home to Wigan on Tuesday was their third successive defeat.

Progress has been slow under the new manager Paul Lambert. He took over the club in November when they club were 19th in the Championship. Wolves are now just 18th, six points from the relegation zone, with two of the seven games they've won under Lambert coming against Premier League opposition in the FA Cup.

Lambert does at least have a nearly fully fit squad to choose from, with Michal Zyro being Wolves' only injured player.

Chelsea

Securing the Premier League title is Chelsea's priority this season, but Antonio Conte would surely love to land a domestic double in his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have progressed to the last-16 of the FA Cup without yet meeting top flight opposition. This has allowed Conte to experiment with his lineup, though of course Chelsea have plenty of talent within their squad.

Should Chelsea reach the business end of this competition then they might have to take it more seriously. By then of course, they may well have already done the hard work in terms of winning the title.

For now Conte will continue to rotate and with David Luiz and John Terry both injured, it could mean starts in the back three for Nathan Ake and Kurt Zouma. Further forward, youngsters Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Michy Batshuayi are also likely to play.

Ref Watch

Jon Moss will officiate. On the last occasion that he refereed a Chelsea match - their 1-0 win over Crystal Palace in December - he showed five yellow cards.

Match Odds

Chelsea are the favourites at 1.92, with the draw at 5.10 and Wolves out at 9.00.

Even accounting for the changes that Chelsea are likely to make, they should still win this one comfortably. Both of their previous FA Cup wins have seen them leading at half-time/full-time and you can back them to do so again at 2.04.

Over/Under 2.5 Goals

Over 2.5 goals is favoured at 1.66, with unders at 2.36.

Chelsea scored four goals against both Peterborough in the third round and Brentford in the fourth. Over 3.5 goals could be worth considering at 2.60, but the price for over 2.5 is just about good enough to recommend.

To Score

Michy Batshuayi has struggled to make an impact in the Premier League, but has delivered in the cups. He's scored four goals in the five games he's played in the FA Cup and League Cup this season.

The Belgian is [2.05] to find the net. Another player worth considering is Willian, who has scored in both rounds of the FA Cup and is 3.50 to add to his tally.

Recommended Bets
Back Chelsea to win half-time/full-time at 2.04
Back under 2.5 goals at 1.66
Back Willian to score at 3.50

La Liga Betting: Beating Leganés the minimum requirement for wavering Barcelona

Real Madrid v Espanyol
Saturday, 15:15
Live on Betfair Live Video


Wednesday's Champions League match against Napoli always looked like a potential banana skin for Real Madrid, and Lorenzo Insigne's opener at the Bernabéu probably jangled a fair few nerves. But Los Merengues weathered the storm in impressive fashion, drawing level through Karim Benzema and pulling clear after the interval.

It's not quite job done for Madrid - Napoli are a real force at the San Paolo - but Zinedine Zidane will be relatively confident of securing progress in the second leg and can now refocus on matters domestic. Saturday's meeting with Espanyol is the first leg of a five-match sequence against sides currently occupying the middle ground of the La Liga table (from Villarreal in sixth to Valencia in 15th), which could easily help them pull clear at the summit once more.

Given that Real played on Wednesday night, there's a reasonable chance that Zidane will rotate a touch here. Sergio Ramos has been ruled out with a hip problem, so Pepe will likely fill in at the back, while the likes of Lucas Vázquez and Álvaro Morata may get some game time. The best news for Madrid is that Gareth Bale could be included in the squad after a three-month lay-off.

Espanyol slumped to a frustrating defeat to Real Sociedad last week, but their form overall has been strong. They won three on the trot before that match and the absence of the in-form Pablo Piatti, who got a bang on the head against Málaga, took its toll. But has been given the all-clear by club doctors and should be able to play here, pending Quique Sánchez Flores' final decision.

That would be a major boost and while Espanyol might struggle to halt their hosts, we like their chances of getting on the scoresheet with Ramos out. They've scored in their last nine games (including ties with Barcelona and Sevilla) and have good variety in attack, with Piatti, José Antonio ReyesGerard Moreno and Hernán Pérez all well capable of troubling top-level defences. Madrid have kept just one clean sheet in eight and may be weary after their midweek exertions, so both teams to score is the pick.

Recommended Bet
Back both teams to score at 2.06

Real Sociedad v Villarreal
Sunday, 11:00
Live on Sky Sports 2 and Betfair Live Video


It has gone largely unnoticed due to their league position and the woes of other, more prominent clubs, but Villarreal are in a real rut at the moment. So impressive in the run-up to Christmas, the Yellow Submarine have lost their rhythm entirely and have managed just a single win in ten matches in all competitions.

They were held by out-of-sorts Málaga on home soil last weekend and things got even worse on Thursday night, when Roma rattled four goals past Sergio Asenjo. The Italians are a quality outfit, to be sure, but Villarreal's defending left a lot to be desired. That will be a major worry for Fran Escribá, not least because his attack has looked blunt since the sale of Alexandre Pato; they've managed a measly six goals since the start of 2017.

Real Sociedad will be confident of piling more misery on their visitors on Sunday. The San Sebastián outfit have lost three of their last six in all competitions, but those defeats all came against Real Madrid and Barcelona, and their form against sides below them in the table has been impeccable: Málaga, Celta Vigo, Osasuna and Espanyol have all been dispatched in recent weeks.

La Real must do without Brazilian striker Willian José for the next couple of months, but have the manpower to cope without him and have won seven of their last 10 league games at home. This is a quick turnaround for Villarreal, who are without Roberto Soriano (suspended) and fell to a 3-1 cup defeat at the Anoeta earlier in the season. We cannot see them stopping Eusebio Sacristán's men here.

Recommended Bet
Back Real Sociedad to win at 1.96

Barcelona v Leganés
Sunday, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 3 and Betfair Live Video


Sometimes a defeat is not just a defeat, and Barcelona's collapse in Paris on Tuesday night certainly felt like something more significant. So bad were Luis Enrique's side that all the talk since has been of the end of an era at the Camp Nou, with many feeling radical change is required this summer.

Enrique will almost certainly go, which is understandable. But there is plenty of blame to go round and some of it must fall on the shoulders of those leading the club's efforts in the transfer market: Barça's squad looks woefully thin in places, while many of those who have come in for top dollar (I'm looking at you, André Gomes) have simply not cut it.

With a Champions League recovery hugely unlikely and no Copa del Rey to think about for the next few months, the Catalans must now throw themselves into their ailing league campaign in the vague hope that Real Madrid will drop the ball between now and May. It probably won't happen, but pride is at stake.

At least the fixture computer has been kind enough to give them a soft landing this weekend. Leganés have been in appalling form, claiming just five points from the last 36 available and edging ever closer to the relegation zone. Their performance against Sporting Gijón last weekend (0-2) was about as limp as it gets and it would take something extraordinary for them to even claim a point at the Camp Nou, Barcelona crisis or not.

There's no Sergio Busquets for Barça - he is suspended - and it would be no great surprise if Enrique made a few changes to make a point. Either way, Barça will be desperate to put their Parc des Princes horror show out of their minds and could cut loose against a desperately poor side.

With Barcelona heavy favourites at 1.10 and even Barça win to nil as short as 1.56, we have to be creative as we search for value. One angle that appeals is backing the home side to score three or more second-half goals - a bet that would have paid out in in four Blaugrana games already this year.

Recommended Bet
Back Barcelona to score more than 2.5 second-half goals at 12/5

Serie A Betting: Back Genoa to get back to winning ways and goals at the San Siro

Pescara v Genoa
Sunday, 14:00


Pescara's terrible season continues, and yet despite losing their last six games, they aren't being seen as no hopers for the visit of Genoa on Sunday afternoon.

They sacked Coach Massimo Oddo on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after publicly confirming their faith in him, and on Thursday evening appointed Zdenek Zeman. Long-time readers of this column will remember that name fondly, along with his 4-3-3 system and tendency to both score and concede goals at an alarming rate.

Pescara are 3.40 to get their first on the field win of the season, and even though Genoa are on a horrible run of their own, I saw enough from them in their 2-0 defeat in Naples last Friday to make me think that they may be about to end it.

They're never going to be the most expansive side in Serie A, but they are well organised, and with Pescara having conceded at least three goals in five of their last six games, the excellent Giovanni Simeone will surely get opportunities, and Genoa will have an excellent chance of getting their first victory since December 15.

Given that they have lost six of their last eight Serie A games, Genoa obviously look like an unreliable proposition. They've had a bit of bad luck on that run, though, and haven't played anyone as bad as Sunday's opposition. They're the bet at odds against.

Recommended Bet
Genoa to beat Pescara @ 2.20

Udinese v Sassuolo
Sunday, 14:00


I'm surprised to see Sassuolo as big as 3.50 to win in Udine. We've done well out of them in this column since acknowledging their likely improvement in 2017, and with Udinese having serious issues in front of goal, there's nothing at all for Eusebio Di Francesco's side to fear here.

Gigi Del Neri's Udinese haven't scored in their last two, and if you stretch back a little further than that, in five of their last seven. With Alessandro Matri having scored five in his last six, and facing his joint favourite Serie A opponent in terms of goalscoring, things couldn't look much rosier for Sassuolo.

Di Francesco's men have won their last two away games, and since the League reconvened in January, they've won half of their matches. It's nothing stellar, but it's improvement nonetheless.

I know that Sassuolo lost at home against Chievo last week, but they were hampered by a red card three minutes into that game, and I'm prepared to put that loss down to bad fortune. They're worth giving another chance against an out of form home team, although I want to keep the draw onside.

Recommended
Sassuolo Draw No Bet @ 2.60

Milan v Fiorentina
Sunday, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 2


Milan stole a draw off both us and Lazio on Monday night, but they at least showed some real fighting spirit, the kind of thing which has been lacking this calendar year.

Fiorentina are as short as 3.50 to win at San Siro on Sunday night, and while I can see why they're that price, I'm not keen to oppose Milan again. La Viola are too unreliable for that.

I do think that there'll be goals, though. Fiorentina's last eight Serie A games have had at least three goals, and there's no real reason to think that this will be low-scoring: Milan could really do with a high-profile win, they'll have to go forward in front of a big Sunday night crowd, and Fiorentina are very dangerous on the counter, even if suspended Federico Bernardeschi will be sorely missed.

I know that Milan's recent stats don't make them look like the best goalscoring prospect, but when they're playing with confidence, as in the five matches before their recent run of three, they're full of goals, and I expect more on Sunday night.


Carlos Bacca should be back in the trident attack with Suso and Gerard Deulofeu, scrapping the False 9 experiment, while Gabriel Paletta and Juraj Kucka return from suspension.

Recommended Bet
Over 2.5 Goals in Milan v Fiorentina @ 1.90