City’s derby win at Old Trafford surprised us here at MM and we seek a swift return to tipping form ahead of another weekend of crucial FA Cup and Premier League action.
Wigan and Manchester City are at Wembley for FA Cup semi-finals, while United are set for a scrap at struggling Stoke as they seek to swiftly quash any faint title hopes City have after Monday’s derby triumph.
We also sum up the weekend’s action in the lower leagues as the season draws closer to a fascinating climax.
Millwall vs. WIGAN ATHLETIC, Wembley Stadium, Saturday 5.15pm
Millwall (7/2, PaddyPower); Draw (14/5, Bet365); Wigan Athletic (20/23, BetVictor)
Their fans may not be at Wembley in any serious number, but Roberto Martinez’s resurgent Wigan remain overwhelming favourites to beat Championship Millwall and reach their maiden FA Cup final.
Kenny Jackett’s Lions have fared indifferently of late; their cup exploits have been tempered by a league slump that has seen them slip from play-off contenders to only five points above the drop zone.
Wigan may remain in the bottom three and mired in relegation trouble but they have five wins from their last seven matches in all competitions and will make that six from eight by beating Millwall.
Martinez loves to attack and keep the ball, tactics which should bear fruit on the expansive Wembley pitch against lower league opposition, making a comfortable Latics win a solid bet. The startlingly generous BetVictor are offering 19/2 and 17/1 on Wigan winning 2-0 and 3-1 respectively.
The Lions are solidly set-up – with three clean sheets in their last five matches – and 0-0 after 90 minutes is not inconceivable, with Coral’s tasty price of 11/1 inviting.
If the game does descend into a frustrating, scrappy stalemate, the draw half-time/draw full-time market is excellent value at 19/4.
If the match takes another market and Wigan take control, in-form Arouna Kone is decent value at 9/1 with PaddyPower to score two goals or more.
Tip: Wigan to win to nil (21/10, SkyBet and PaddyPower)
Stoke City vs. MANCHESTER UNITED, Britannia Stadium, Sunday 2.05pm
Stoke City (6/1, Bet365); Draw (3/1, BetVictor); Manchester United (8/13, Coral)
Irritated would better sum-up Sir Alex Ferguson’s demeanour after United lost to City on Monday than devastated.
The pragmatic Scot knows his team remain destined for a 20th league title and, despite their victory, ‘noisy neighbours’ City have been quietened for the time being.
With City at Wembley the same day, United will see Sunday’s trip to a Stoke team now staring at relegation after an alarming run of form as the ideal chance to restore their 15-point lead.
Stoke’s position has become grave but goals galore is rarely on the menu in the Potteries so the smart money is on United 1-0 – 6/1 with 188bet – the winning margin in United’s last two Premier League victories.
Stoke have been hugely bereft of goals lately, making 21/20 from YouWin on a United clean sheet an incredible price.
With Ashley Young out injured, Nani could step in and is 9/1 with Bet365 to open the scoring while Robin Van Persie is 4/1 with Coral to end his goal drought by scoring first at Stoke.
Tip: A penalty to be awarded (7/2, William Hill)
Chelsea vs. MANCHESTER CITY, Wembley Stadium, Sunday 4pm
Chelsea (12/5, BetVictor); Draw (5/2, Bet365); Manchester City (7/5, StanJames)
Roberto Mancini was absolutely right to say his team deserved their Old Trafford win on Monday but whether City’s ambitious owners regard a second-placed finish as enough to keep the Italian in his job is debateable.
Certainly, an FA Cup triumph would give Mancini a timely boost and make it three major trophies in three years for the ex-Inter boss at the Etihad.
Chelsea bullied a below-par United to reach this stage but City, on the big surface at Wembley, will be a bridge too far for them after a draining night in Russia on Thursday.
They will be pleased to even score against City, after losing 2-0 and drawing 0-0 with the champions in the Premier League this year.
Rafa Benitez’s side may start quickly before fatigue sets is, so Chelsea half-time/City full-time is a decent outside shout at 28/1 with SportingBet.
Eden Hazard is 12/1 with Bet365 to score first and even Fernando Torres, supposedly approaching his best again according to Benitez, commands as much as 15/2 to open the scoring.
City’s class will come through here, though, especially if David Silva is fit to play after tweaking his hamstring in the latter stages of the derby.
For a big punt, the 7/5 price on City outright is worth consideration, but the real value lies with the both halves market.
StanJames are prepared to give you a Christmas, Easter and birthday present rolled into one on City winning both halves – 8/1 is simply colossal.
The ever-reliable consolation of PaddyPower’s money-back specials is always there to fall back on; this time they are opting to refund selected bets if either Juan Mata or Yaya Toure net last.
Tip – City to won by two goals (13/2, SkyBet)
Football league treble: Bolton, Bury v Oldham and Rochdale all to draw (35/1, SkyBet)
Bolton’s play-off surge has been checked by patchy away form and a win at a Bristol City team fighting for survival may be beyond them.
Local pride will salvage Bury a point from their Gigg Lane derby with Oldham, while Rochdale – impressive recently – will hold promotion-chasing Port Vale at Spotland.
Image courtesy of Sky Sports, via YouTube, with thanks