David’s picks for this week are Everton to beat Wigan Athletic, Dortmund to see off Schalke, West Brom to do a number on Swansea City and Sheffield United to take care of MK Dons. Read on to find out the rationale behind these selections.
It is the great unpredictability of football that makes us love it so much, be it a late goal, a cup giant killing or a game-changing red card.
It’s an absolute ball-ache for acca fans though, and seeing my coupon ruined by top-of-the-table Cardiff City losing at out-of-sorts Middlesbrough, followed by mighty Paris St-Germain getting beaten by tiny little Reims last Saturday, reminded me just how unpredictable (and eyebrow-furrowing) this great game can be.
So it was back to the stats board this week, but I have not put as much faith in it as previous weeks, and I will be taking a hiatus from the enigma that is the Championship. It has cost me an awful lot in the last few weeks.
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Everton to beat Wigan @ 2/5
It’s FA Cup quarter-final weekend (woo!) and it all kicks off early on Saturday afternoon as Everton welcome Wigan to Goodison Park.
The Latics got the biffs from Everton’s Merseyside rivals Liverpool last weekend, and got to the point of in-fighting during the first half, which will no doubt be a big concern to Roberto Martinez.
However, it must be remembered that Wigan’s last away game saw them comfortably dispatch Reading and they have actually picked up more points away than at home this season.
David Moyes should be able to guide his team past them at the first time of asking though, as if nothing else, Moyes will likely see winning his first trophy as Everton manager as a priority given the gap between his side and the top four.
Martinez was enthusiastic about this clash when the draw was made, despite losing 2-1 at Goodison on Boxing Day, but the urgency of Wigan’s league situation will surely be seen as more important.
Borussia Dortmund to beat Schalke @ evens
Ah Bundesliga, you always make the weekend feel better, and a mouth-watering clash between Dortmund and Schalke provides a fascinating contest.
Schalke actually won the reverse fixture in the Westfalenstadion 2-1 back in October, but it is Jurgen Klopp’s side that have pushed on from there and cemented their place in the top three.
Jens Keller’s charges sit in sixth place, but just two points off the Champions League places, though the loss of form of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar since he signed a new contract has affected their goal output.
Dortmund will be on a high after their comprehensive midweek win over Shakhtar Donetsk to advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski and company look a generous price at evens to triumph.
West Brom to beat Swansea @ 13/10
The Premier League accompanies the FA Cup this weekend and one of the more interesting games on Saturday comes at the Hawthorns, where West Brom will entertain League Cup winners Swansea.
Both teams fancy their chances of securing a very respectable top-half finish, but crucially, any quest for Europe is likely to cause the Baggies to put that little bit more effort in given that the Swans have already qualified for the Europa League.
Motivation didn’t appear to be an issue as Michael Laudrup’s men defeated Newcastle United at the Liberty Stadium last week, but as teams such as Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton have found out this season, West Brom are very good at home.
Steve Clarke’s outfit have won eight of their 14 home games in the league and with powerhouse Romelu Lukaku up top, they will fancy their chances against a Welsh team that averages less than a goal a game away from home.
Sheffield Utd to beat MK Dons @ 11/10
After they were agonisingly denied in a penalty shoot-out in last year’s League One play-off final against Huddersfield Town, many expected Sheffield United to storm the league this year to ensure they didn’t spend another season in England’s third tier.
However, it didn’t quite pan out that way initially, with the Blades spending much of the season in the play-off zone.
But Danny Wilson has got his team playing well at a crucial time of the season and the Yorkshire outfit now sit in second place, just two points off top-of-the-table Doncaster Rovers.
They welcome out-of-form MK Dons, who have plummeted down the league in the last two months, to Bramall Lane on Saturday.
Karl Robinson has stemmed the tide with some recent draws and a 3-0 win at home to the league leaders on Tuesday night, but an away trip to United will likely be too much for a side that has only won once in the league since New Year’s Day.
Follow David on Twitter @whichdave