Big guns eyeing up the FA Cup

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Three Championship teams and relegation-threatened Wigan all remain in the FA Cup as we reach the quarter-final stage but that doesn’t increase the likelihood of a surprise Wembley winner given that three of the top four as well as sixth-placed Everton, also have their eye on the famous trophy.

At least one of the big guns will fail to reach the semis after Manchester United and Chelsea were paired together in the draw and, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were handed home advantage, they’re Skybet’s 5/6 favourites to eliminate the holders at the first attempt to reach the last four.

The visitors are 7/2 with bet365 to keep their hopes of retaining the crown alive while BetVictor post 18/5 against the mouth-watering tie requiring a replay but United’s strength at home should give them the edge and they can shade a tight encounter at Old Trafford.

Only once in the last 10 meetings between the two has one of the teams failed to score so Ladbrokes’ 7/10 for both sides to find the net should be a safe bet statistically speaking and with that in mind, Stan James’ 17/2 chalked against a 2-1 United triumph isn’t without appeal.

Javier Hernandez, meanwhile, is the stand out first scorer bet at 13/2 via bet365. The Mexican front man has struck in each of his last three appearances against Chelsea, including twice this season, he has also bagged three goals in the last two rounds of the cup and has started every one of United’s games in the competition thus far.

David Moyes insists the Premier League and the FA Cup are currently of equal importance but, with a top-four finish seemingly out of reach, it’s hard not to feel that the Everton boss would prioritise the chance of silverware, especially as he could be set to leave the club.

There’s plenty riding on the last-eight clash with Wigan then and bookies think the Toffees will handle the pressure, Skybet installing them as 1/2 favourites at Goodison Park, where William Hill combine a home win with a tally of three or more goals at 19/20.

Winners in 2011, Manchester City should move a step closer to repeating the feat in 2013, Stan James rating them at just 1/7 to overcome Barnsley and Paddy Power making Roberto Mancini’s troops 11/10 in the handicaps, when starting two goals behind the Tykes. Finally, in the all-Championship tussle, BetVictor mark 5/2 against Millwall and Blackburn requiring a replay to decide who reaches the last four.

In the Premier League, buoyant pair Liverpool and Tottenham lock horns and with the latter almost unstoppable of late, they look overpriced at a massive 3/1 (William Hill) to pick up a fifth straight victory at Anfield, where Gareth Bale is 2/1 via Stan James to strike at any time.

At the bottom, Aston Villa are 85/40 courtesy of BetVictor to pick up a vital maximum haul in their six-pointer at Reading and Coral quote QPR at 5/4 to boost their own survival hopes by seeing off Sunderland at Loftus Road.

Newcastle, meanwhile, deserve to be odds-on favourites at 19/20 (Paddy Power) as they entertain Stoke, Skybet’s draw price of 12/5 is marginally the best bet as Norwich face Southampton and bet365 make West Brom and Swansea 23/10 to be inseparable at the Hawthorns.

England are just 1/100 at Coral to edge closer to a Six Nations Grand Slam by getting the better of Italy at Twickenham on Sunday, but while Stuart Lancaster’s troops are a cast-iron banker to prevail, the defiant visitors have been given a few too many points in the handicaps and are worth backing at 10/11 (Stan James) when kicking off 27 points in front.

At Murrayfield, Scotland get the nod at 10/11 with bet365 when starting five points better off than Wales and Skybet rate France at 10/11 to edge out Ireland in Dublin.

With the start of the new Formula One season just over a week away, excitement is building, especially as there have been a few significant changes in personnel.

Lewis has ended his lengthy association with McLaren to move to Mercedes, Sergio Perez replacing him, while Nico Hulkenberg’s switch to Sauber from Force India is amongst the other moves.

One team where the status quo has remained, however, is Red Bull, where defending champion Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber will again take the wheel. The German will be aiming to secure his fourth consecutive Drivers Championship and BetVictor’s 13/8 favourite is fancied to continue his dominance of the sport.

Ferrari again look like the team most likely to mount a challenge to Red Bull, bet365 pricing Fernando Alonso at 3/1 in the Championship betting and the Spaniard looks a banker at 8/13 (Paddy Power) for a top-three finish. Coral, finally, fancy Red Bull to be the winning constructor, chalking the Austria-based outfit up at even money.

Bet of the week: Sebastian Vettel to win the F1 Drivers Championship – 13/8 (BetVictor).

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