THE MAGIC OF THE FA CUP There is so much that makes the FA Cup a brilliant competition. You have your David vs. Goliath encounters, cup upsets and some really enthralling games. Of course, what makes the cup so brilliant also makes it a bit tougher from the betting perspective as you can’t be sure what strength of team each manager will select. Looking through this weekend where all the big boys enter the competition I have picked three results based on good prices and I’m predicting what type of teams will line up.

West Ham v Man City

7.55pm Friday As mentioned above, it is difficult to know what type of teams Pep and Bilic will play tonight, but I am predicting that West Ham will play a pretty strong team. I see them as a side who have underwhelmed this season, largely due to a very poor start but they have quality in the team and they could save their season with a good cup run. I think City will rest a couple of players, but for them does it really make that huge a difference? They have so much depth in their squad you’d think the team will be strong regardless.

One player I fully expect to see playing tonight is Andy Carroll and I think he can be a real difference. No matter who plays in that Man City defence, none of them will be able to match him physically or aerially. Stones doesn’t have the strength, Otamendi is nowhere near tall enough and Kolarov shouldn’t be playing centre back really. He has a great opportunity to have a field day against this back four.

Although there will be strength in the Man City team tonight, I think the prices are a bit off for this one. West Ham have already beaten Chelsea in the League Cup this season and i think they have the makings of a team that can take another scalp in the Cup. Man City have been in horrid form recently and it really seems to be getting to Pep. An away tilt against a fellow Premier League side in the FA Cup is not an ideal situation for this team, and a big 5.3 at the time of writing I think West Ham are a brilliant price regardless of what team Man City put out.

Back West Ham at 5.3.

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Norwich v Southampton

3.00pm Saturday There is always banana skins for Premier League teams at this stage of the FA Cup. Southampton are a prime pick for me to experience a slip up tomorrow, there is just so much negativity surrounding the squad right now I’m not sure Claude Puel has a hold of the dressing room. Every player seems to want out, which is unfortunate because they have been going pretty well this year, especially defensively. However with Fonte supposedly demanding a move, things look like they could be going south.

Southampton as a club have done a tremendous job of losing players and finding excellent replacement without the team going backwards, but surely their assets must be wearing thin. And the atmosphere in a dressing room when one of your leaders wants out can really take concentration off of a game. This is a great chance for Norwich who are a decent side in their own right. They were flying high in the Championship to start the season but have regressed a bit, this is an opportunity for them to build their momentum up again. I think Norwich can capitalise on the tumultuous situation in Southampton and grab a win at home here.

Back Norwich at 3.3.

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Preston v Arsenal

5.30pm Saturday Arsenal are the one team I think will rest a lot of their players this weekend. The way things have gone for them recently I think it is important for them to give their main players a rest. It was a tough Christmas, with only 48 hours between their last two games and in the first half of their game against Bournemouth you could really see the fatigue. They looked like a League One side for the first 60 minutes of that game before finally turning it on.

I can’t see Sanchez playing at all, I think Ozil will still be out with illness and either way he hasn’t been up to scratch lately. Then you look at Preston who are having a solid season and you have to say they have a strong team. Sure they may not play the quality of players Arsenal have every week, but this will be their biggest game of the season so far. As well as this they will be playing against a largely second string Arsenal side, will they still be good players? Of course, but they won’t be used to as regular football as these Preston guys, which means the home side can really get at Arsenal.

Will they get a historic FA Cup win? I’m not too sure, but I think they will really be able to put it up to Arsenal who will have a decent travel after a very busy Christmas. Look for one side to be really up for this, and the others to be slightly off the boil. We’ve seen in the last couple of seasons that Arsenal’s second string side can really be got at if you are physical enough with them, expect to see this recipe tomorrow evening.

Lay Arsenal at 1.46.

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