Only five Premier League teams remain in the FA Cup at the quarter-final stage and the two highest-placed of those – Manchester United and Arsenal – collide at Old Trafford in what is undoubtedly the game of the round.
Aided by home advantage, United get the nod from bookies, bet365 installing them as 11/8 favourites to reach the last four at the first attempt, while the Gunners are Stan James’s 2/1 outsiders and it’s 5/2 with BetVictor for the tie to require a replay.
Arsene Wenger’s troops have faced the sterner tests in the competition so far, a factor that some punters might feel stands them in good stead ahead of this one.
There could subsequently be interest in bet365’s 7/2 for the visitors to hold Louis Van Gaal’s men to a score draw or Ladbrokes’s 4/7 for the north London outfit to avoid defeat.
However, United have enjoyed the upper hand over Arsenal on their own patch in recent years, winning their last six home assignments against the Gunners and having also defeated Wenger’s charges at the Emirates earlier this term, they look well placed to do the business once more.
Betway chalk them up at a generous 17/2 to again finish on the right side of a 2-1 scoreline, a home success by a one goal margin is a 3/1 shot at Stan James and in what should be a tight affair, Winner.com go 5/1 about United shading it following an even first half, as they did in their Premier League clash in November.
Wayne Rooney was the catalyst for United’s triumph that day and was also the match winner as United saw off Sunderland in their last home game so he’s hard to beat in terms of value at 11/2 in Paddy Power’s ‘Draw No Bet’ market.
In the wake of the draw, Brendan Rodgers’s men were immediately propelled to the head of tournament’s outright betting, BetVictor installing the Reds as 2/1 favourites to lift the trophy.
United are an 11/4 chance at bet365 while Ladbrokes price the Gunners at 10/3 but as one of them will definitely be eliminated and Liverpool have been handed a home draw against Championship side Blackburn, bookies had no chance but to slash the Reds’ odds for Wembley glory.
On paper, the clash against Rovers looks relatively predictable and bookmakers agree, William Hill making Rodgers’s charges just 4/11 to ease through to the last four at the first attempt.
Rovers are BetVictor’s 19/2 underdogs to cause a huge upset, however the Reds’ recent form, their exit from the Europa League excepted, has been outstanding and as the competition represents their only chance of silverware now, it’s hard to see Rodgers’s troops slipping up against a Rovers side whose record of late has been a touch indifferent.
Accordingly, a relatively comfortable Liverpool success seems like the most likely outcome and Skybet rate the hosts at a generous 10/11 in the handicaps, where they start a goal in arrears. Alternatively, a 2-0 Reds triumph is a 6/1 shot at bet365.
In the other two ties, West Brom look a touch overpriced at 9/5 with Stan James to overcome neighbours Aston Villa at Villa Park and in light of their Premier League scalps as well as their recent cup pedigree, League One Bradford are worth an interest at 13/8 (Ladbrokes) to defeat Championship Reading.
Finally, in the Premier League, Tottenham can give their top four hopes a shot in the arm while their rivals are inactive, Stan James quoting them at 5/6 to pick up maximum points at relegation-threatened QPR.
Bookies are struggling to separate Great Britain and USA ahead of their Davis Cup tennis contest in Glasgow this weekend.
Bet365 make both teams 5/6 to emerge victorious, some firms favour the United States but an Andy Murray inspired Team GB get the nod from Stan James and their home advantage can prove crucial.
England have to beat Bangladesh in the early hours of Monday if they are to progress in the Cricket World Cup.
Eoin Morgan’s side are just 1/3 at Skybet to pick up a positive result and it’s 5/2 (betway) for them to suffer an embarrassing defeat.
Finally in Super League, champions St Helens look like the weekend’s best handicap bet, Winner.com making them 10/11 to cover a dozen-point start at Wakefield.
Bet of the week: Bradford to beat Reading – 13/8 (Ladbrokes).
Odds supplied by www.betrescue.com