Brighton v Newcastle
I can really see an odds upset here. Brighton have had longer to prepare for this and are off the back of a 3-0 win at Ipswich, whereas Newcastle may have hard time against Everton on Wednesday and have had a lot of injuries. A brave shout to open with I know, but: 2-0 Brighton.
Aldershot v Rotherham
An all League 2 clash. With promotion far from in the bag for the Millers (that’s Rotherham by the way), they’ll have their league form at the forefront of their minds, whereas Aldershot are at home and are far enough from relegation to afford a run in the cup. 1-0 the Shots.
Aston Villa v Ipswich
Ipswich lost heavily to Brighton on Tuesday, but before that they were in great form under Mick McCarthy. Villa could have the Carling Cup semi-final more prominently on their minds, so they may rotate where possible and they haven’t got too much strength in depth with their young team. Will say a win for Villa just about, 2-1.
Barnsley v Burnley
Burnley, sat slap-bang midtable of the Championship, will want a Cup run to avoid a season of near boredom, whereas Barnsley will probably think there to be enough chance of them staying up to take a run in the cup off their priority list. Burnley have got the division’s top scorer in Austin injured though, so they won’t win by more than 0-2.
Blackburn v Bristol City
Like Barnsley, Bristol City will want to focus on getting out of trouble and like Burnley, Blackburn are mid-table and need a cup run to add some excitement to their season. They’ve just signed Josh King permanently from Man United and they won their last match 3-0. I’m thinking a repeat of that scoreline for them on Saturday.
Bolton v Sunderland
Yet another club languishing in Championship mid-table are Bolton, who have underachieved this season and promotion ambitions for them will have to be put on hold until next season. Sunderland are starting to find their feet under O’Neill, both teams have talented attacking players so I reckon this could be an entertaining game. 2-2.
Charlton v Huddersfield
These are 2 more clubs in the same position in the Championship, mid-table who’re only 2 places away from each other. Huddersfield concede a lot of goals away from home and lost 6-1 at Leicester in the week, so I think Chris Powell’s side will get the better of them. 2-0.
Crawley v Reading
Crawley seem to quite like this competition. They will have fond memories of reaching the fifth round and keeping it down to 1-0 at Old Trafford 2 years ago, and did the same again the next season, reaching the fifth round, twice beating Championship opposition before losing to Premier League Stoke. They can score goals with Billy Clarke in their team so I reckon relegation-threatened Reading will have a hard time, 2-2.
Crystal Palace v Stoke
Palace are averaging closer to 3 home goals per game than 2 and always look a threat with Zaha and Murray in their team. Stoke’s defence hasn’t looked so tight in recent weeks as it is notorious for being, so Palace can get something from the game, and potentially win it. 1-1 is my prediction though.
Derby v Tranmere
Tranmere have the ability to cause a mini-shock here, they’ve won their last 3 matches, but then Derby are at home. As Tranmere have tightened up greatly since they lost 5-0 to Swindon, I think they’ll keep a clean sheet and take the Rams up to Liverpool, for a replay at Prenton Park. 0-0.
Fulham v Blackpool
Both teams can definitely afford to go for this and I think both will come out in this game all guns blazing, which would make for a cracking contest. Berbatov was instrumental in Fulham’s win at West Brom, and I think he may be the star of the show again for this one, I’ll go 3-2.
Hull v Leyton Orient
Hull are looking in good nick at the moment- they’ve taken 17pts from their last 7 games and are up to 2nd in the Championship table. Bruce has clearly continued their best defensive record in the league of last season, they look a good shout for promotion. Don’t think the Orient will really make them sweat. A comfortable 2-0.
Leeds v Birmingham
I’m not going to this but I don’t mind either way really. A cup run would be nice to fill this woeful season with some cheer, but getting more consistent with our league form has to be the priority. Warnock has been known not to favour cup competitions so much, I just hope this doesn’t end in a draw- with so many injuries, a replay is the last thing we need. 3-1 Leeds.
Leicester v Burton Albion
A sort of local derby, but the gulf between these teams suggests that Burton will be more bothered about Leicester than Leicester are of them. The Brewers are off the back of a 3-0 thumping at York City, and if they lose by 3 to a team like that, then you’d worry for them about the much greater threat that Leicester will pose. 4-0.
Luton v Wolves
I can’t believe that I’m going as far as researching non-league football for my predictions, but here goes. Luton are currently 5th in the Conference, but recently lost 3-1 to Woking. Wolves seem to be very much struggling for consistency in the Championship, and things have grown a little worse lately as they’ve lost their last 3. I’m going for a Wolves win, but by no means at a canter, 0-1.
Macclesfield v Cardiff
In some ways, Cardiff can afford to go for the cup run. They’ve got a great history in the competition and promotion to the English top flight for the first time in 51 years is looking increasingly likely. Then again, the fantastic strength in depth of their attack means that they can probably rotate in this game and still win it with some to spare anyway, as they play a distinctly average conference side in Macclesfield. 0-3.
Man City v Watford
Out of the Champions League. Out of the Carling Cup. A second title is looking unlikely. This is probably Mancini’s best chance of a trophy this season, and I’ve got a feeling he’ll field almost his strongest line-up. Italian-style Watford are looking good under Zola, but they’ll have nothing like what is required to stop City. I’m going to go as far as 5-0.
Middlesbrough v Hastings Utd
To be honest, I didn’t even know Hastings United existed as a club before now. Middlesbrough will have not so happy memories of non-league cup scalps when a guy called Gez Murphy scored a late penalty to equalize for Nuneaton Borough a few years ago. Anyone else remember that? No, is it just me? Hastings are hardly thriving in the Ryman Premier League though, they’re 17th and have drawn their last 6 matches. I think I’m going to be kind to them, because it will be the biggest day of their footballing lives, and I think they’ll rise to the occasion, put in a good shift and keep the score respectable at 2-0.
Millwall v Preston
Preston look to be on course for another season of obscurity, as they sit midtable in League 1. Millwall did win their last match but their quest for a play-off spot seems to be slipping away a little bit. Both are fairly well organized teams and I reckon it could be a bore draw, so 0-0.
Nottingham Forest v Oldham
The Forest board were stupid to sack O’Driscoll, especially with the team not far off the play-offs, and they hardly had grand season ambitions. Their 3-0 defeat to Blackburn shows the tough job McLeish has ahead of him, and as a Blues fan, I genuinely, sincerely hope he fails miserably. Oldham don’t look like a side capable of causing a scalp at the moment, though. 1-0 Forest win.
Oxford Utd v Sheff Utd
Sheffield United’s 2-2 draw with Doncaster epitomizes how close the promotion race will be, and really I don’t think Danny Wilson will be overly concerned about success in the Cup. If he rotates his team for this one, then actually I reckon the game is set up nicely for Oxford to do the damage, because they’ve won their last 4 games in all competitions. 2-1.
Peterborough v Norwich
There are 6 teams more likely to go down with Reading and QPR than Norwich, and a Cup run would certainly add gloss to the wonderful season they’ve had so far – which promised so little in September – and the job Chris Hughton has done. They might have lost their last 4 but those were away matches, and home ones against top teams. Posh are in good form, as they’ve amassed 9 from 4, so this could be close. 0-1.
QPR v West Brom
If Harry genuinely believes QPR can stay up – which I don’t think he does, what was he supposed to say in the interview: “yes, we’re probably doomed”? – then a run in the cup may actually provide them with some much needed impetus. It could have a fitness-based disadvantage, but the players need to get that winning mentality, winning feeling back to stand a chance. West Brom are safe, though their last win in fact coming in this fixture a few days ago, QPR will go into it with revenge on their mind. 2-0.
Sheff Wed v MK Dons
Should be interesting to see the outcome of this match. The Dons managed to stop their rot of 2 defeats when they won at Notts County on New Year’s Day, Wednesday’s revival looks to have been put on hold when they lost at home to Burnley. It could go either way, but I’m going with Karl Robinson’s side to record a surprise 1-2 away win.
Southampton v Chelsea
The domestic cups are Chelsea’s only hopes of a trophy this season, after they failed to win the Super Cup and the Club World Cup as a result of having won the Champions League. Avoiding relegation will be the Saints’ biggest concern, so I think a comfortable win for Chelsea. 1-3.
Southend v Brentford
Despite being a league apart, these teams are in similar positions to each other. Both teams are trying to make a promotion push in their respective leagues, though a play-off place seems the most likely outcome for both. They’ve both got clinical goalscorers, Britt Assombalonga (remember the name) already has 11 for Southend and Brentford’s Clayton Donaldson is the League 1 second top scorer. However, neither have won either of their last 2, Southend have lost both and Brentford have drawn both. At the moment I’m thinking a 1-1 draw.
Tottenham v Coventry
This fixture will bring back memories if nothing else. It was the 1987 FA Cup final which saw a shock win for Coventry City, when hard-man centre-back Gary Mabbut scored an own goal in extra-time, having in fact scored earlier in the game, to give the Sky Blues a historic victory. As by some way League 1’s top scorer, David McGoldrick has the talent to score past not the greatest of Spurs defences, I wouldn’t expect history to repeat itself. AVB’s team are on a roll. 4-1.
Wigan v Bournemouth
Eddie Howe’s impact as manager of Bournemouth seems to have been to make them more compact at the back- they’ve now kept 4 clean sheets in a row. Wigan will go into the game expecting a comprehensive win but I’m not sure they’ll have things entirely their own way over the course of the game. If they don’t panic, which a lot of teams do when they don’t score early against smaller clubs, and continue to create the width from the wingbacks, they can probably open up the Cherries defence eventually, but labouredly. 2-0.
West Ham v Man Utd
United will have their eye on the treble and the make-up of their team is not too dissimilar from the one that won it in ’99. They’ve got 4 top strikers, and unlike last season, the team looks more focused going into every match, unlike last season when they blew their 8pt lead in the Premiership. I’d expect nothing like the 4-0 West Ham game that happened in this fixture in the Carling Cup a few years ago, and I’d expect Man U to prevail in this one with relative ease. 0-2.
Swansea v Arsenal
Swansea have done pretty well against Arsenal since promotion. They beat them 3-2 at the Liberty last year, and won in a shock 2-0 at the Emirates this. However, they may have half an eye on the Carling Cup semi-final, whereas Arsenal are still in desperate need of a trophy and if 4th place is starting to look unlikely for them, they may need the cup for Wenger to salvage some credibility. 0-2.
Mansfield v Liverpool
Mansfield got some excellent preparation for this game with a 3-0 win at Alfreton on Tuesday, but let’s face it- Liverpool will provide a slightly different proposition. A lot of it may depend on whether Rodgers decides to rotate for this game, because Liverpool haven’t got too much strength in depth, but it ought to only affect the manner in which Liverpool win, not whether or not they do. Realistically speaking I wouldn’t give the Stags much of a look in, 0-3.
Cheltenham v Everton
I’m a bit undecided as to who I want to win this one. I’ve got some friends who support Cheltenham, but Everton are one of my favourite teams and I’m a big admirer of David Moyes. Although Cheltenham are 4th in League 2, they lost at Oxford on Tuesday, so I don’t think they’re set up well enough to go out and cause a shock. I reckon Everton will be typically industrious and efficient in this one, to get the job done. 0-2.