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FA Cup/Champions League tips, 27th March 2012

Benfica v Chelsea, 19:45

It’s getting quite tough to know what to expect from the Blues at the moment, especially in Europe. Playing the way they did against Napoli at Stamford Bridge they should progress past Benfica, but the reality is that the Portuguese side are more than capable of knocking Chelsea out and Roberto di Matteo off his perch. This competition is the best chance the Italian has of taking the job full-time, and the expected return of Branislav Ivanovic will be a defensive boost for Bobby.

In terms of the tie, starting away from home gives Chelsea an advantage overall, but I’d say this game will be one they’ll struggle to win, so the 10/3 with Ladbrokes on a 1-goal win for Benfica seems most prudent.

 

Spurs v Bolton, 19:30

Enough has been written about what happened last time this game was started for now, so we’ll focus on this match. Bolton and Tottenham have both played since then and neither side has their full attention on the cup. Spurs are desperate to hang onto the top four after being considered title contenders for a bit, while the away team are battling bravely, gamely but not particularly successfully against relegation at present.

Tottenham defender Michael Dawson, goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, and midfielder Tom Huddlestone are all missing through injury. Bolton manager Owen Coyle says recent signing winger Gregg Wylde will not make his Wanderers debut as his registration is not complete yet. Bet365 have 9/1 on a 2-1 Spurs win, possibly reflecting their poor league form of late.

 

Sunderland v Everton, 20:00

In the reverse of the other game in the cup this game is pretty much the whole season of these two teams, to the extent that Everton have sacrificed a Merseyside derby in an attempt to keep their best eleven fresh. The home side will be pleased to take Everton to a replay, and the form of James McClean will give them hope of making it to the semi-final against Liverpool, but the noises coming out of the Everton camp suggest they are champing at the bit to get to Wembley.

Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson and full-back Phil Bardsley, who were unwell, are fit, but John O’Shea and Kieran Richardson are out with calf problems. Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar is cup-tied so Darron Gibson is expected to keep his place, but Jack Rodwell and Seamus Coleman are doubtful. James McClean is available at 7/2 with Bet365 as an anytime scorer, and the winger is starting to get into the box more often for the Black Cats.

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