Arsenal v Shrewsbury, R3, 19:45
For all that ties like this can appear to be potentially dangerous for a top team, with the ‘nothing to lose’ clichés being trotted out because they are true, I expect Arsene Wenger will be glad of the chance to play this game. Many of his new signings weren’t around for pre-season, and the Gunners have struggled to gel, as was evidenced by their loss to Blackburn. We may even see a few first-team players, who knows?
Chamakh has been on form of late, and is 7/2 to get the first with Bet365. If he takes a chance it’ll reinforce the perception at Arsenal that the Moroccan is coming back to his best.
Aston Villa v Bolton, R3, 19:45
These two are in the odd situation of having managers who realistically are thinking about avoiding relegation first and foremost, but Villa at least have a set of fans who are determined the club can win the league. The Carling Cup is a good opportunity to get some silverware, and the result of this game will probably rest on who is willing to commit the most resources to it in a quest to do so.
Betfred will give you 14’s on a 3-1 home win, but until you’ve seen the team sheets it can be very hard to know how this sort of clash will pan out.
Leeds v Man United, R3, 19:45
I’m told Leeds used to be quite good at football, before the bloke with the blind spot when it came to wages joined the club, and had a fair few encounters with the other United during that period. For the Leeds fans, possibly the strangest in the universe, this is simply another sign the club is on the way back to the Champions League, and if they could turn Man Utd over I expect Yorkshire might explode.
You can get 19/5 on Berbatov being first scorer, and I’ll be surprised if Fergie doesn’t let his Bulgarian star have a run out in this game, such is the time already spent on the bench this term by the £32m man.
Nottingham Forest v Newcastle, R3, 19:45
Dutch Steve is already stamping his feet about not having any new players to hang a promotion campaign on, and he’ll find a kindred spirit in Alan Pardew. The Newcastle manager comes here with Leon Best in top form, which is good news for the Magpies manager, as pretty much every other player he had capable of changing a game has been sold.
Betfair have 64/5 on a 2-0 Newcastle win, and I honestly can’t see the home side doing more than a draw, given how thinly spread their squad is at the moment.
Stoke v Tottenham, R3, 19:45
There were two very different weekends for these two sides, and this game is a bit of an odd one as a result. Spurs demolished Liverpool in a scoreline that had a few on either side of the fence sit up and take notice, while Tony Pulis mentioned the travelling his side had done prior to their loss at Sunderland 34 times in his post-match interview, at the same time always refusing to blame it for the performance.
Blue Square have 9/1 on a 2-1 Stoke win, and I think this is a game the home boss will want resolved here and now, as opposed to a replay. A lot again depends on which manager will pick the strongest eleven.
Wolverhampton v Millwall, R3, 19:45
When it comes to indignant, pained denial, these two sides take the biscuit and then look hurt when accused of doing so. Mick loves to look offended while all and sundry point out that his side clearly go out an deliberately hurt other players, while Millwall fans are permanently claiming to have changed, although they generally stay the same. A Lion doesn’t change his boots, to mangle some phraseology.
You can get 9/2 with Ladbrokes on Wolves winning by 2 goals, and I doubt very much that’ll be far off when the dust has settled and the crying has stopped.
Blackburn v Leyton Orient, R3, 20:00
Steve Kean has bought himself a bit of time with the win over Arsenal, but football can be a funny game sometimes, and I don’t mean the hair stylings of Joey Barton or watching Peter Crouch increasingly resemble a baby giraffe as he gamely flaps a leg at a cross. If Blackburn lose this match it’ll undo all the good work done on the weekend, and Kean will be right back in the chickeny crosshairs of the Venky firing squad.
Hoilett has looked sharp for the Rovers, and Ladbrokes will give you 7/1 on him getting the first, providing the boss is willing to risk such an asset in a game like this.