Will the FA Cup ever be restored to its former glory?

As we approach this weekend I cannot wait for another couple of days of sport as the sun hopefully continues to beam down on us. We’ve got some crucial EPL games, the Monte Carlo tennis masters and a handful of thought-provoking boxing cards. Oh and the FA cup apparently…..

Earlier this season we witnessed Bournemouth resting players at Millwall that saw them go out but I don’t blame Eddie Howe. If a team wins the FA Cup, they earn £1.8million but each club gets £2m per place they finish in the Premier League. In terms of monetary value the three points are potentially more treasured than winning the esteemed trophy. Are Bournemouth going to be thinking about losing 3-0 to Millwall when they visit Old Trafford and Anfield next season?

Common consensus with respect to this competition of vivacious history, is that the biggest blow came in 2000 when Manchester United elected to play in the World Club Championships instead of the FA cup. For me, it happened a few years earlier. The Champions League became “the” competition and in 1997 qualification was changed so winning your domestic league was no longer the only way of qualifying. Out went the European Cup Winners Cup too.

Part of the problem is the scheduling (January to May). The big clubs need to prioritise the EPL and European competition. The Capital One Cup, on the other hand, is done by February. But there are more logistical issues than that which has diminished that feeling of nostalgia. The feeling that “this is the FA-cup” (previously leading to me banging on Harry Symeou’s front door in the mid to late 90s so we could watch the final build up!). It was the last fixture of domestic calendar with the day solely focused on the final until 2011 where Manchester City beat Stoke City 1-0 in the final. Meanwhile, on that very day, Manchester United were playing in one of several EPL fixtures that claimed them the EPL title. Again in 2013 Wigan Athletic went from winning the FA cup to being relegated the following week. Now we see this TV (and global) friendly 5:15 kick off time. If the game goes to extra time or even penalties are fans from the north of the country going to be hanging around for the coveted trophy presentation?

Is there a solution to all of this? Probably not. Although one thing I would do is offer the winner a place in the Champions League in a play-game vs the team that finishes fourth in the league. Whether this would restore any credibility I don’t know. What are our followers suggestions? Or am I the only one apathetic towards the world’s oldest football competition?

Words: @Alavi_SSN

 

Carabao fix the draw but not the glitch

The draw for the Carabao Cup quarter final descended into farce and chaos yesterday as the organizers bungled the most simple task in football – pulling 8 numbered balls out of a hat.

Well at least that’s how we used to do it. Not Carabao. Having already had draws in Thailand, China at 4am, experienced issues including drawing the same team twice and confusing the home and away teams 4 separate times with the help of John Salako, Carabao and the EFL decided that this draw would take place live on twitter.

Why?

Well, we can come back to that.

What I was envisaging was at 4pm logging on to twitter and being presented with a link that some one had pre-shared to a video of people (hopefully not John Salako) undertaking a draw live for all to see. Novel, if unnecessary.

What happened? 4pm nothing. 4:10 nothing 4:15, 4:30, 4:40 and so on… What did happen though were some announcements. 4 to be exact. My favourite – ‘…..a twitter engineer continues to work on the problem’ A twitter engineer!! What is one of those?

The draw took place at 5:45 pm? Or did it….? Fans and neutral onlookers were provided with a pre-recorded video of the draw, and the torment was over. What time did the pre-recording take place? Nobody knows. Phil Tufnell and Matt Dawson charged with the important part – football affiliation zero. A draw for the next series of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ amateur/professional pairings I’d suggest would be a better place for them to be.

Back to the question of why?

For why, you need to look back at the whole pie and ask yourself how? How can drawing numbers be so difficult?

Here is how I would do it?

But How have the EFL and Carabao managed to mess up so many things in just a few draws?

After the fiasco had ended Carabao issued this tweeted statement “……apologies for technical difficulties…..blah blah blah”

I divert your attention to the previous photograph, nothing needs to be technical, unless…

Here is the result of that draw that no one saw happen:

Chelsea vs Bournemouth

Arsenal vs West Ham

Leicester vs Manchester City

Bristol City vs Manchester United.

The biggest 4 teams in the draw avoided each other, which for the number cruncher’s had just a 23% chance of happening. What has a great chance of happening now is the virtual certainty that there will be 2 big sides in the Final.

That technical glitch has proved to be very convenient in that bad press is better than no press, and Carabao were dominating the trends on social media yesterday afternoon. The good press will be covered at a packed Wembley with two huge teams and Carabao billboards all around the parameters. At least there won’t have to be a draw for the Final, but I wouldn’t rule out both teams being assigned the same dressing room with rival fans sitting on each others laps!

So why? Marketing, coverage, exposure and ….fix? You decide. But the only thing we’re certain wasn’t fixed are the ‘technical’ problems that plague these draws.

How? The over complication of a process to get a desired result?

Maybe next year we can go back to basics. Yellow balls of paper and a glass. If so, I’d certainly drink to that.

@DDL_SSN

Arsenal 2-1 Norwich – Nketiah steals the show

Edward Nketiah was the name on everyone’s lips last night when he came off of the bench to rescue Arsenal in the Carabao cup against Norwich.

Arsenal had made 11 changes to their win over Everton on Sunday and the bench, with the exception of Chuba Akpom, had players known only to the staunchest Arsenal fans.

Norwich had led through Josh Murphy’s fine finish and had every right to feel aggrieved when Eleneny only saw yellow for pulling down Oliviera early in the 2nd Half.

Arsenal began to push late on though and Wenger’s faith in his young guns proved its worth when young Nketiah equalised with 5 minutes left. He did so just 15 seconds after coming on the field as a substitute, and became the first player born after Wenger’s appointment to score for the Gunners.

Arsenal’s foothold was not to be given up as they dominated extra time, and that man Edward Nketiah rose highest from a corner to head the gunners into the quarter final draw. A night to remember for him and a player to watch out for in the future.

Dan De Luca

@DDL_SSN

Reffing Hell!

There are 3 key components of every good side…

A strong spine. A 20-Goal a season striker. And a well chosen referee at key points of the season.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have both had hands in progressing in the Champions League (again), Arsenal have been able to use their hands to avoid Arsenal Fan TVs server reaching capacity, and with Chelsea having a little wobble, well, it’s time for the FA to bring out the A team.

With the Spurs – Chelsea semi final neatly poised in 2012 ref Martin Atkinson decided the game could do with a goal, so… he gave one. Marvellous. Thankfully goal-line technology will prevent any such repeats but there is still no technology to prevent you from being a cheating attention seeking bellend. So with that it mind, who would you not appoint to handle the 2017 reunion of the two sides in the semi final? And who have the FA chosen from their pool of miscreants? Yeah, Martin Atkinson.

Who knows what will happen this time, will he subconsciously try to even things out? will he try so hard not to be seen to even things out and go the other way? Why even appoint him and crank the pressure up more with a crowd that won’t forget? You stupid stupid stupid organisation. Apart from Diego Costa being allowed 17 bookable offences before his first warning instead of his usual 12 expect this to end in tears and controversy and a ref at the centre of it all in the aftermath. Maybe that’s what he wants, but it makes you wonder what the FA know about common bloody sense. What does FA stand for again?

That was De Luca’s 2 pence #2pDDL

sofasportsnews.com

Spurs 4-3 Wycombe: A Wake Up Call!

A wake up call and time now to take the cup seriously.

At full time it was heartbreak for Wycombe, and when you come from league 2, away to a top premier league side and you’re never trailing until the 97th minute it’s desperately unfortunate not to get at least a money spinning replay. At times it looked like they would get more. Leading 2-0 at half-time is never a given for a lower league team away at a big side, but once going back 3-2 in front in the final ten minutes against 10 men with the game in the minutes up to that point had started to descend into a lull the travelling support wouldn’t have even settled for a replay. The performance should be a platform for Wycombe to secure the playoff place they currently occupy.

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As for Tottenham, a big scare and an opportunity for Pochettino to re-assess the selection policy for the rest of the tournament. In truth, Tottenham on the day weren’t THAT bad. They’ve scored 4 at the end of the day, 2 of those with 10 men, and dominated completely between goals 1 and 2. There is though quite rightly an expectation to see off lower league teams comfortably and that didn’t happen. The problems were defensively, and a change of the entire back 5 plus protector victor Wanyama may have contributed, but it’s alarming how weak the squad players appear when facing a spirited opposition who can mix up their attacks with a combination of wide play and high balls.

Last year was a great chance for Spurs to win their first FA Cup in a quarter of a century, when they fell in the 5th round to Crystal Palace. The onward route to the cup would have been Reading-Watford-Manchester United.
That day the team that played was weakened but a lot stronger than yesterday’s, but the common factor was an injured Vertonghen and a rested Alderweireld. Resting of players yesterday was perfectly understandable against a team you’d expect the squad players to be able to handle, and with a premier league game 3 days later.

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The truth though, the Spurs squad does not have the strength in depth to make it much further in the competition if the changes are wholesale, the same can be said for most teams, and Toby Alderweireld has to play going forward. While it’s understandable leaving him out yesterday having missed long periods recently with injury, for me to be happy we are taking the tournament seriously he needs to feature and the players rested count must decrease from 9 to somewhere closer to 3.

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It’s difficult to prioritise everything, and currently stuck between a title challenge and a top 4 scrap makes the temptation to rest players great for a home game against Wycombe, but now the wake up call has been landed I’d like to see us take heed and give our best shot at delivering a trophy as reward what has been a great team performance over 2 seasons. The competition will be tougher than it might have been last season unfortunately but whilst the draw hasn’t been made yet it’s not unusual for draws to open up after the 5th rounds.

It will be shame in years to come to look back on the Pochettino era and not see a trophy to reflect it. Hopefully the efforts are spread across all fronts rather than prioritising and potentially ending up with nothing but plaudits and Champions League eliminations, because at the end of the day, those are soon forgotten.

Dan De Luca

#DDL

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Domestic Cup’s versus Euro Qualification – Sofa Sports News

Domestic Cups vs European Qualification

Being a lifelong Arsenal fan and for the most part through the Wenger-Era I’ve become accustomed to seeing my team qualify for Europe’s premier competition – the UEFA Champions League.  In recent years the Gunners have been accused of a lack of ambition and branded as underachievers.  For a club with the infrastructure, financial muscle and history of Arsenal is simply qualifying for the tournament enough?

There is an ongoing debate at sofasportsnews.com around whether as fans you would prefer to win one of the domestic cups or finish in the top four, meaning Champions League Qualification.

Matt Le Tissier (Ex-Southampton player) was quoted on sky sports last night as saying he would have preferred to walk out in a cup final for his beloved Saints than qualify for Europe and I’m sure there are plenty who would share that view.

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As supporters, we all love a trip to Wembley and watching your team win a final, lift the trophy and create memories is what football is all about.  The harsh truth is that the average football fan won’t remember the team who finished 4th and qualified for the group stages of the champions league but they will certainly remember the trophy winners.

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Prior to me writing this piece I read a number of convincing arguments from both sides.  It’s been a hot topic of debate in the ‘Football Fan Network – sofasportsnews.com’ Facebook group and rightly so.

Football has become a huge business right around the globe and to an extent you could argue that it’s beginning to lose its identity.  The importance of tradition and history are gradually fading away and as a result clubs priorities have shifted drastically.

Take the Premier League TV deals for example; the benefits of the lower end clubs surviving in the Premier League outweigh that of winning one of the domestic cups.  The same can be said at the top end of the table, Champions league qualification is more financially rewarding than winning either of the domestic cups or even both together!  At the end of the 2015/16 season the Premier League published the earnings of each of the 20 clubs from the domestic and overseas TV revenues.  The figures were crazy!

Click here to see the Premier League Clubs earnings 2015/16

These figures are set to rise with the Premier League having secured a record breaking £5.136 billion deal for Broadcasting rights concerning the period of 2016-19, they sold for 71% more than the previous deal (2013-16).

The Premier League really is the promise land and so survival will inevitably be the priority and the main objective for the majority of clubs therefore devaluing the domestic cups further.

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Prize Money

We’ve already established that money makes the football world go around and so let’s compare the financial rewards for winning either of the domestic trophies against those of qualifying for European competition.

FA Cup Prize Money: £2m (winners)                              

EFL Cup Prize Money: £100k (winners)

UEFA Europa League: €2.3m (Group Stage Participation)

UEFA Champions League: €12.7m (Group Stage Participation)

Even the purist of football fans would have to admit the difference in financial reward is staggering! Still surprised that certain clubs would rather finish in the top 4 than win one of the two domestic trophies?

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Conclusion

As fans we all want to win things, enjoy a day out, celebrate a final victory and we don’t have too much interest in the financial affairs of our clubs.  However, when you consider all of the factors in the modern game it’s clear that European Qualification must be prioritized in order to keep up with your rivals.

Supporters think with their hearts whereas, club owners and shareholders think with their heads!  From a business point of view (which football has become) its a no brainer and this goes a long way in highlighting the disconnect between the fans and their clubs in the modern era.

Harry

@HarrySymeou

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How clubs are turning the EFL Cup from an opportunity to a hindrance – De Luca.

I don’t know what to make of the League Cup right now. Fans seem delighted to win it, but then it doesn’t ruin their weeks if they are knocked out in the early stages. That’s a good thing.

But then, top Managers don’t seem to care despite what they may tell you. Home fans aren’t particularly bothered, and the noise (or lack of) from the home end at Anfield yesterday qualifies that.

It is though a good opportunity for younger fans to get tickets and has become an opportunity for families to visit at affordable prices, which is a good thing too of course, although the late finishes, especially if there is extra time, can be a problem for them as much as it can cause travel chaos for all fans particularly away fans who have long journeys back to their home town.

The opportunity for a wider net of teams to have a shot at reaching a major Wembley final is a great thing for football, as teams capitalise from some of the bigger sides fielding weakened teams.
That benefit has a flip side to it…

When 21 of the 22 starters of a match were not selected to start by their managers on the previous Premier League weekend the tournament can only be seen at that moment to be taking another knock.

I was at Anfield last night watching Liverpool Vs Tottenham and aside from Liverpool going through I’m struggling to understand much else either side got from the game.

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The Anfield ‘Scarf Show – De Luca’

The positives will be of course that it gives a runout to squad players and the old favourite ‘a chance to see some of the younger players’. The latter is becoming overused and I’m not sure of the value a manager gets from seeing them in this environment.

From a Tottenham perspective last night, 8 of the starting 11 were under the age of 23. So you could argue that’s a positive if you wanted provided they put in a reasonable display. What we learned yesterday is that Spurs have 5 or 6 fringe players in the squad who are decent enough footballers, based on the possession statistics and some of the parts of the game where they were able to keep the ball for periods. Great. I’d expect that from a squad player of a top 6 club anyway.

I assume though that when a younger player is thrown into this competition that a manager is looking to see how close they are to being ready for the bigger games and bigger tournaments. Which leaves my question…How can he establish that when the opponents are reserves or a lower division side too? And also, his teammates will all be of lesser quality than the players he would be surrounded by if he ever needed to be thrown in.
How does that affect his level of performance?

Josh Onomah for example had comfortably the worst game I’ve seen him play for Tottenham, has he sunk to the level of his team mates and opposition on the night? Or is he actually not that good after all? The manager can’t know after last night so is it a pointless experiment?

I was looking forward to seeing Carter-Vickers in the flesh, a highly-rated youngster with a possible great future ahead. What I saw though was an entirely changed back 4, with him paired with Kevin Wimmer who has not played all season either. How do I know then who was really at fault for a horrific defensive display in which Tottenham were carved open several times and struggled massively when asked to play out of the back? How then does Pochettino?

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Surely there would be more benefit in making just 3 or 4 changes and seeing the player in the environment they may find themselves in of they were called upon? Tottenham’s best chance of silverware each season is the league cup, that’s a fact. Liverpool’s too. The same for every team in fact. It was the only trophy Manchester City picked up last season for example. I can’t help but feel last night was a surrender of a trophy opportunity by Tottenham but not a lot gained in return in terms of knowledge or valuable experience.

Liverpool won the match last night and deservedly so and the difference was the one player of genuine quality on the pitch who could get into most teams in Europe’s match day squads although bizarrely doesn’t seem to be wanted at Liverpool.

The league cup a useful platform for him to remind his manager of his quality.

The League Cup is a great opportunity for so many positives for a lot more teams and it would be nice to see the FA and the clubs work together, make some rule changes and commitments around squads, ticket pricing and scheduling, to make the most of a rare opportunity in football where everyone at all levels of the club, and the fans, can benefit, enjoy the game and not feel the lasting pain of a defeat.

The League cup can be a great tournament, for more clubs, for more fans, for more players and for the future of football. Without closing the opportunities for smaller clubs to compete, the people at the top of the game should pledge to do more to make it so.

De Luca

Sofa Sports News

EFL Cup – Betting Tips! (Wednesday)

Liverpool, Arsenal, Newcastle, Hull and Leeds all secured their places in the last 8 of this season’s EFL cup.  There are three more places up for grabs and tonight see’s arguably the clash of the round with Pep’s Man City travelling just down the road to neighbors Man Utd.

A Manchester derby on a Wednesday night is always a treat no matter what the competition and with both managers being questioned at the moment it promises to be a fine encounter.  Elsewhere we have the small matter of a London derby with West Ham taking on Chelsea at the London stadium and Southampton entertain Sunderland at St Mary’s.

Betting: EFL Cup

Manchester United:  31/20   Draw:  5/2   Manchester City: 19/10

West Ham:   15/4    Draw:  16/5   Chelsea: 3/4

Southampton:  2/5   Draw: 19/5   Sunderland: 17/2

Odd’s from Bet365 online…(subject to change)

De Luca’s Tip: “Southampton will win most likely but with the value being so tight I’d back them at -1.

Man City at 19/10 is the best value, especially if both managers go with weakened sides.”

Alavi’s Tip: “For me, backing Chelsea at almost even’s is the one!”

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Sofa Sports News

EFL Cup -Betting Tips! (Tuesday)

Tuesday night see’s 5 EFL cup tie’s taking place with the stand out game being that between Liverpool & Spurs at Anfield. (Live on Sky sports)

Betting: EFL Cup

Arsenal: 2/9   Draw: 6/1   Reading: 14/1

Bristol City: 13/10   Draw:  5/2   Hull City: 9/4

Leeds United: 15/8   Draw: 12/5   Norwich City: 8/5

Liverpool: 7/10   Draw: 16/5   Tottenham Hotspur: 4/1

Newcastle: 2/5   Draw: 15/4   Preston: 17/2

Odd’s from Bet365 online…(subject to change)

Harry’s tip:  “I expect Liverpool vs Spurs to be a good EFL cup tie and I think the host’s should just edge it.  However, Spurs at 4/1 is excellent value and I am feeling lucky so I will certainly be backing an away win!

Interestingly, if you like an accumulator a treble of Arsenal, Tottenham and Hull City is at 19/1.  Worth a tenner surely!”

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Sofa Sports News

Preview: Copa Del Rey Final – Alavi

So there’s another cup final this weekend……..

Both Barcelona and Sevilla are going for the “double”.
The Catalans pipped arch rivals Real Madrid to the league title thanks to a Luis Suarez hat-trick and 3-0 win at Granada on the final day of the season last weekend. Barcelona’s fifth win in a row ensured they won the championship by one point from runners up Real, who defeated Deportivo La Coruna 2-0. Suarez took his tally to 40 goals. Barca take on a Sevilla side who secured a third consecutive Europa League success on Wednesday night after coming back from a one nil down to beat Liverpool 3-1 in Basel. That triumph prompted Unai Emery, who could attract interest from other European clubs this summer, to commit his future to Sevilla for as long as the club want him

Team news

Barcelona have been without the services of injured goalkeeper Claudio Bravo for the last two matches, but even if the Chilean is passed fit, cup stopper Marc-Andre ter Stegen will start between the sticks. Sevilla, meanwhile, will be without the services of suspended midfielder Steven N’Zonzi. Michael Krohn-Dehli will also miss out with a fractured kneecap and Benoit Tremoulinas with knee ligament damage. Experienced French centre-back Adil Rami, however, has insisted that he will be fit for the final despite suffering a knock against Liverpool in the Europa League final.
Gameiro is likely to lead the line, a man who ha scored 25 times in all competitions this season, ahead of Fernando Llorente. Sergio Rico, however, will return between the sticks to take the place of European goalkeeper David Soria.

Barcelona possible starting lineup
Ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Neymar, Suarez, Messi

Sevilla possible starting lineup
Rico; Mariano, Rami, Carrico, Escudero; Krychowiak, Iborra; Vitolo, Banega, Coke; Gameiro

Prediction

I’m going for a tight game in which Barcelona take an early lead and hold on to run out 1-0 winners. I feel tiredness could play a factor following Sevilla’s cup exploits. Sevilla won on Wednesday night because, plain and simple, Liverpool couldn’t hold onto the ball.

I think a know a team that can…………

Alavi

FA Cup Final Preview – Dan De Luca

And then there were two….

Manchester United and Crystal Palace will contest the 2016 FA Cup final in a repeat of the 1990 showpiece.

For Palace, a chance to win the first major trophy in their clubs history, and for Manchester United an opportunity to end a 11 year drought of lifting the famous trophy since their last triumph against Millwall in 2004.
Hard to believe that the likes of Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick have never lifted the FA Cup. They will be keen to complete their domestic trophy collections.

Crystal Palace’s form in 2016 has been disastrous, but for the distractions of this cup run, and Alan Pardew will be desperate for his side to pick up one more scalp and land him the trophy he has narrowly missed as both player and manger, notably as West Ham boss in 2006.

His counterpart Louis Van Gaal will view this as an opportunity to answer his critics in England and protect his CV with a trophy. Although his staunchest critics will not consider a win here enough to warrant retaining his job, there’s no doubt the Dutchman would love the consolation of capturing United’s first major trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson left Old Trafford.

Although United will be clear favourites for the final, Palace certainly possess the weapons to cause trouble on the break, they’ve failed to score against United in the twice they’ve met this season, but that shouldn’t be a concern. Pardew has made no secret of his intention to play on the break in the Final, and tactically you can understand why. Their biggest threat is on the counter from the pacey trio of Puncheon, Bolasie and United flop Zaha, and dropping deep would seem to be the approach required to nullify the oppositions biggest threat of in form Martial getting in behind.

One thing we’ve seen consistently from LVG this season is that he’s drilled his side not to be in a hurry, I don’t see them falling into the trap too soon of over committing players into the attack, so I’m expecting a slow burner with plenty of United pressure, but I’m not going to brace myself for fireworks

I wouldn’t rule out Wayne Rooney stealing the headlines in a season where so many have been ready to write him off. It would be ironic if the trusty old guard outshines the young rising star Rashford, who will no doubt steal a lot of the pre match airtime. It’s always interesting how a young star copes on the biggest stage, and despite everything that has gone before, this is the first real test of the lads character.
Jack Grealish you may recall struggled massively last year under the spotlight, and whilst this is a slightly easier assignment on paper than playing for a lesser side against Arsenal, there can be no guarantees at all how he will perform against what will be a typically rigid defence.

It’s a strange situation that the key players in a cup final are the full backs but this is where this one maybe decided. How Valencia and Rojo / young Fosu-Mensah cope against the Palace Trio, versus how Joel Ward supports with the shackling of Martial.

On paper and weighing everything up, United should be able get the job done, but there’s something about United this season that just doesn’t feel right. Everytime you think they may have turned a corner there is a setback. When you started to think they were going to steal a top 4 slot it slipped away when even a draw against West Ham would have done two late goals were conceded. I’ve got a feeling for Palace and really think they could upset the odds finally giving Pardew the piece of silver that has cruelly eluded him in the past.

After the season we’ve had in England, anything less that a Leicester-Palace community shield just doesn’t feel like a fitting end.

I’m predicting not a classic game necessarily but there may be a classic result.

Fun Bet: Palace to win in extra time @ 16/1

FA Cup Semi Final Preview 23/4/2016 – Dan De Luca

The FA Cup has reached Semi Final day, and despite being as pissed off as I normally am this time of year that the venue for these games is Wembley, there are two pretty evenly matched ties to sit back and Enjoy.

Palace play Watford tomorrow on the battle of the underdogs and the 1st prize would be a place in the final and a day out at Wembley….except of course they are already playing there.
Alan Pardew’s sides league form has suffered dramatically at the expense of this cup run and he’ll be hoping to get the best out of his side and get another chance to claim the trophy he came seconds away from winning in 2006 with West Ham.
Watford’s form has dipped a little too since they secured premier league safety and this has coincided with Odion Ighalo’s blistering early season goalscoring form slowing down a tad.
Watford will be hoping to make their first FA cup final since 1984 where they lost to Everton, Palace their first since 1990 where they lost to Manchester United, so either way there is a fair chance of history repeating itself in the showcase in May.
I think Palace are going to get the job done today though, their style better suited to the occasion and just a couple more big players who have been here before. Scott Dann part of Birmingham’s league cup win in 2011, Ward Delaney Jedinak & Zaha were all part of Palaces Wembley playoff promotion win in 2013, which ironically came against today’s opponents Watford in a tight 1-0 win.
This Watford side is a host of new faces, and the Pardew factor here could also top the balance.

The obvious tie of the round sees Manchester United play Everton this evening and in a repeat of the 2009 semi final where the toffees triumphed on penalties.
In a twist of events its Roberto Martinez and not Louis Van Gaal who goes into this game under the most pressure, and despite Everton’s dreadful this is still a tough one to call.
Everton were my pre-tournament each way tips and with just win to before I can collect my spoils, I’m not going to back out on them now. I expect them to be quick out of the blocks and attempt to overpower uniteds midfield area which has been their major weakness this year. Whilst defensively there is a lot to fear, United aren’t exactly free scoring and this could be a rare day where 2 goals might be enough for Everton to upset the apple cart again and bang in the final nail in Louis Van Gaals coffin. The biggest threat from United may come from Marcus Rashford again and he’ll no doubt look to use the wide space of the big Wembley pitch to utilise his pace against the inconsistent Everton back line. It’ll be interesting to see how he copes on his first Wembley big game outing.

Expect 2 cagey encounters, and possibly more than 180 minutes.

FA Cup Betting:
Palace in 90 minutes @ 7/5
Everton to win 2-1 @ 13/1

Capital One Cup Final Preview…Daniel De Luca

In the excitement of everything else going in the last few weeks it’s been easy to forget the Capital One Cup Final has been sneaking up on us.

The first silverware of the season will be handed out today at Wembley, and it gives a chance for Jurgen Klopp to follow in the footsteps of various other foreign managers and make the league cup his first piece of British Silverware.
For Pellegrini, his last trip to Wembley as Manchester City manager.

Liverpool’s record in this tournament is unrivalled with 8 wins, 3 more than any other and will be buoyed by City’s recent dip in form.

You never know what liverpool are going to turn up but you’d expect Klopp to have his side well drilled for this one.

City have their best players back from long term injuries though, and despite Liverpool getting things together going forward at various times this season, at the back they are as bad as anyone I’ve seen and if Sterling, Silva, Toure and Aguero play anywhere near their best I’d expect them to overpower Liverpool’s back line and defensive midfield areas. It’s fair to say that Liverpool would fancy their chances against City’s back line too but the return of Kompany is massive and may prove the difference.

Sterling’s first performance against his old club was forgettable and the key factor today may be how he copes on the big stage with the added pressure of 40,000 boo boys.

I’m looking forward to this game and am expecting attacks to come out on top. Klopp has had a few months with this squad now and their fitness and discipline has visibly improved. Their best chance of taking this might be by dragging the game into later phases, when the test will switch to some of City’s returning players who haven’t played much football. Yaya Toure is not the engine he used to be and i’d expect to tire as the game wears on.

I think I’d like to see Liverpool win this as a pick up for their fans who have had a tough season, but I’ve seen far too many bad performances from them and they’ve far too many inconsistent players for me to be able to back them with any confidence.

I don’t know by what means but I think Man City are going to have too much and give Pellegrini at least one more trophy to mark his time in England.
City win 90mins & both teams to score = 7/2

One for the Reds – Liverpool to win on penalties = 11/1

The FA Cup exit – Did Poch get his priorities wrong?

To be honest I’m hugely disappointed to be knocked out of the FA Cup on Sunday. I don’t get the notion of fans saying things like “blessing in disguise” and “too many games” Nonsense.

I appreciate there are times when you have to prioritise, but I think Poch got his priorities wrong this week.

I’ll forgive him of course, the man is working wonders, and he’s event the right to do what he sees fit and not be questioned.

However, Here is my gripe. Tottenham are having a great season, anyone previously denying Spurs are in a title race can’t deny it anymore.
Through the group stages of the Europa League, as you would expect, and as of Sunday in the FA Cup 5th round, BUT, if the season ends without a trophy, how much more successful is it than any other season? A bit maybe, then a decreasing amount with every passing year. Chances to win trophies have been few and far between over the years and really I’d like to have seen a better effort on Sunday to progress to the last 8.

I’m not sure why Pochettino chose to prioritise the Europa league this week, and maybe I never will, but in a tournament that has potentially 9 more games, with long away trips you have potential impact on your title challenge, and the squad may not be big enough to do both.
The FA Cup though had just 4 games left, including a favourable home draw to Palace and two games at Wembley which wouldn’t be subject to replays. Spurs have proved this season I think that they have the ability to beat anyone. Surely this was the pot to put the eggs in?
The draw afterwards that would have seen a trip to Reading only compounded my misery. There are some big teams left in the cup but we should have been having a big go at winning it and it would not have been too big a drain on resources.

If we get through the Europa stages the impact could be telling, if we don’t then what was the point of almost throwing the FA Cup? I just didn’t get it.

In reality Tottenham probably won’t win the league 5/2 with bookies which is a 71% chance that it won’t happen. Winning the FA Cup would have been a nice consolation prize.
I just can’t foresee a situation where Spurs win the Europa league, which means the season could fizzle out fruitless which would be a huge shame.
If Spurs do pull off the greatest triumph and pick up the league title I don’t think it will be because we avoided an FA cup quarter final with Reading. If Spurs were to win the Europa League that would be great, but the biggest prize associated with it (champions league qualification) should already be in the bag I hope, which is another reason why I didn’t think it would be worth all the hassle compared to the FA Cup.

The game itself Tottenham played pretty well, and created enough to win it. The stage the season is at now though is exclusively about results, nothing else matters.

A big run in ahead is all that’s left to focus on for me, and the real distraction of the Europa League can plod along in the background. If we get through to the Semis and are out the title race then of course it becomes the priority again but if we are still in a title race then the pressure will really be on the squad to turn in consecutive big performances.
Maybe that is the distraction we really could have done without.

FA Cup 5th Round Preview – De Luca

We’re getting close to the business end now where fans will be starting to dream of a trip to Wembley.

The likes of West Ham for example just 2 games away and will fancy their chances, playing well and a favourable draw today away at Blackburn.

The tournament so far has avoided big exciting draws until now, and the tie of the round is undoubtedly Chelsea vs Manchester City, a few weeks ago an easy one to call but now with Chelsea’s form picking up and Manchester City having another wobble. Vincent Kompany returned against Tottenham and that is Key for City today, as Costa has started to look the part again following the removal of Jose Mourinho, and the other Centre halves I’m City’s squad would not be able to cope.

I fancy City to win this today, or at very the least take it to a replay, Kompany back is huge and city should dominate in midfield, Toure pushing further forward suits City that when he plays in one one of the two and Silva is looking sharp again.
Against Tottenham despite the defeat there were still enough chances created to win the game and I wouldn’t expect Aguero to miss twice again. Chelsea’s midfield is poor for me and defensively they won’t be able to contain City’s attacking 3, and that’s before we even get to Aguero. Matic and Mikel are mid-table footballers for me, and there will be a make-shift centre half pairing due to injuries of Terry and Zouma. In a one off game I can’t look beyond City being in the hat for the Quarter Finals.

My pre-tournament tips Arsenal are still in and looking forward to their customary home draw against Hull, who are no mugs in fact but should still allow Arsenal to rotate a couple and have plenty in hand as they press for the hat-trick of cup wins.

My other pre tournament each way shout, Everton, are still there too and have a tougher game away at Bournemouth. It’s still one I expect them to come through today. They will be prioritising this cup and the added hunger should make the difference.

Normally I look for an FA Cup shock, but this round its a struggle to find one.

Shrewsbury will lose to Manchester United despite what the romantics will want you to believe.

Reading – West Brom will be decided by the odd goal probably but Reading have failed to score in their last 2 at home so may struggle to break down a Pulis side who wouldn’t mind a replay.

I can’t see Leeds beating Watford either. The Leeds away support will be as well travelled and buoyant as ever I just think Watford will be too good for them on the pitch. I’d love Watford to get a Wembley day out in the FA Cup, they way they’ve played at times this season they deserve some reward and a favourable draw in the next round could see them with a Semi final to show for their hard work.

So, maybe it’s Palace who can cause the upset at the Lane.
Who knows where Tottenham’s head will be at? Going for the title, played a stronger team than you might have expected Thursday in the Europa League, what will they do today? I think Pochettino will go full strength today, he has a history of doing so especially with a week between games. Even with a full strength side tough Palace still could cause them trouble and Spurs have only mustered narrow wins against palace this season. It’s hard to imagine Spurs going full strength in all competitions being the right move with not the largest squad and maybe focus might not be at 100% for this cup game. I’d be disappointed as a Spurs fan to go out of the FA Cup and would much prefer this was prioritised over the Europa League this season, but it’s not an easy tie here and upset hunters might fancy Palace to upset the apple cart.

So a reminder of the fixtures
Arsenal vs Hull
Watford vs Leeds
Reading vs West Brom
Bournemouth vs Everton
Blackburn vs West Ham
Chelsea Vs Manchester City
Tottenham Vs Crystal Palace
Shrewsbury vs Manchester United

Try these on your betting slip:

Manchester City
Everton
Watford
West Ham

Accumulator Pays 35/1
(7/2 on Manchester City is a ridiculously good price and you may want to put them in draw no bet)

Nice price: Adebayor to score anytime @ 3/1