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FA Cups tips, 18th February 2012

Chelsea v Birmingham, 12:45

The only win in Chelsea’s last five home games came in the last round of the cup, and with managers starting to drop like flies Roman may find his trigger-finger itching a bit if the side fail to impress against opposition from the division below. Birmingham are certainly good enough to compete over ninety minutes with a struggling Chelsea, but may get smashed if the home side click.

Chelsea are likely to be without captain John Terry, Ashley Cole faces a late fitness test and African duo Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou are back but won’t play, although Ramires returns after three weeks out. Birmingham will be without Nikola Zigic, Marlon King and Guirane N’Daw. Daniel Sturridge is 9/2 with Paddy Power to score first, and the young striker is in good form.

 

Everton v Blackpool, 15:00

As we prepare for the end of the season the Everton fans are probably not planning any street parties for the trophies they’ll win this year, but the FA Cup is a chance to at least tease the fans who have supported the side so, erm, vocally over the years. Blackpool’s relegation was a blessing or a curse, depending on how you feel about Holloway, but they are not completely outclassed today, especially if David Moyes rests his first team.

Everton will be without Phil Jagielka, Leon Osman and Jack Rodwell , but Seamus Coleman and Nikica Jelavic could return. In-form winger Matt Phillips is Blackpool’s only injury concern, after he missed Tuesday’s win over Doncaster. Ladbrokes have 8/1 on Everton winning 2-1, and the Toffees are in better form of late.

 

Millwall v Bolton, 15:00

Whether this game will have any effect on the Bolton survival bid is debateable, but I’m betting that if there even the slightest chance it could hurt their ‘revival’ then Owen Coyle will take no risks. Millwall are by no means a poor team, but anyone seen as key to the Bolton run-in may find themselves enjoying the game wrapped in cotton wool.

Tamika Mkandawire, Jimmy Abdou and Therry Racon are absentees for the Lions. Bolton are without Kevin Davies, Tyrone Mears and Marvin Sordell, but Tim Ream and Ryo Miyaichi could make their first starts for the club. Bet365 have 15/4 on a 1-0 home win, but I think Bolton’s chances of getting shocked are limited.

 

Norwich v Leicester, 15:00

There is arguably a lesson for the wealthy visitors to Carrow Road, one that they could learn from their hosts. That is the value of finding a properly outstanding manager, as opposed to simply and expensive one, and giving him the time and confidence to do his job properly, and the results garnered by Paul Lambert and his men are sure to be the envy of many a Championship club. This will be a good, close game, but the home side are still not safe in the league, their main priority.

Norwich have been given permission by Tottenham to field on-loan defender Kyle Naughton, but Zak Whitbread and Daniel Ayala are both out. Leicester defenders Sol Bamba and John Pantsil could feature after returning from the Africa Cup of Nations. Aston Villa loanee Nathan Delfouneso is available after his parent club were knocked out in the last round. William Hill offer 13/2 on a 1-1 draw, which wouldn’t really help either side.

 

Sunderland v Arsenal, 17:15

Martin O’Neill has already made the point that while the Milan defeat may not have broken Arsenal players mentally, it will certainly have a physical effect in comparison to the more-rested home side today. Traditionally Wenger would rest his first team in the hope of doing better at the Emirates in the Champions League, but with that a distant pipe-dream he may choose to make a point and put some of the dross from Wednesday through another ninety minutes.

For Sunderland, Nicklas Bendtner is ineligible to play against his parent club, while David Vaughan is also out. Arsenal have Per Mertesacker out, although Kieran Gibbs made his return after four months against Milan so could keep his place in the side, but Laurent Koscielny also misses out with a knee injury. Blue Square have 15/2 on Frazier Campbell continuing his comeback with the first goal, something that would delight the Sunderland crowd.

 

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