15.00 Burnley v Queens Park Rangers
On paper, this isn’t exactly the most exhilarating of ties but, given that QPR are the away team, it seems as close as one can get to a dead cert. Let’s have a wee look at QPR’s away record this season. Hmm… That would be 11 played and 11 lost. It’s a mind-boggling run of miserable consistency from a manager who many were confidently predicting would be next English manager until Roy Hodgson got the gig a few years back.
Yes, Harry Redknapp really seems to be phoning it in when it comes to his team leaving the confines of London. Or just their home ground of Loftus Park. Which is weird because their home record, after a dicey start, isn’t all that bad.
One suspects that old ‘Arry has had enough of pretending to care and just wants to get to the end of the year with some dignity intact so that he can bow out and park his posterior in a well-paid chair supplied by Sky, BT or whoever is willing to let his large head take up the entire space on yr 54’’ tv. This column blew enough hot air up Sean Dyche’s Burnley-shaped skirt last week so let’s just stick with the above and say it’s going to be a home win. They’re second from bottom and are still only given slightly better than evens for the win so that should tell you all you need to know. Betfred have 6/5 for the Burnley win.
17.30 Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur
Here’s one for you – leaving aside their 0-4 win over minnows Dover in the recent round of FA Cup matches, Crystal Palace have scored two goals in their last eight matches. That’s exactly half the amount that the perennially goal-shy Aston Villa have managed in the same number of games. That is quite the feat of awfulness. They also haven’t managed to win a league match since November. And this Saturday they face one of the league’s form teams in Spurs, a side in possession of a Harrycane (sorry) which ripped apart a very mean Chelsea defence last time out. Yes, all is rosy at the moment in the often tempestuous garden of Tottenham.
They sit fifth in the table, a point above local rivals Arsenal. If the league was to come to a close right now, that would probably be good enough for their long-suffering fans. However, one suspects that manager Pochetino has other ideas as his side have begun to translate the lessons learned on the training ground to the field of play. In a league that is markedly short on quality this year, it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine them being there or thereabouts when it comes to Champion’s League places at the end of the year. A win for Spurs is by far the most likely of results and Betvictor amongst others is offering 6/5 on that.
Manchester United v Southampton
One of the ties of the weekend, most would agree. What exactly are Utd up to at the moment? It seems like LVG has borrowed some of Arsenal’s training ground methods as Utd have been accruing injuries at a Wengerian rate all season. This column can’t keep up. Certainly there will be 11 players on the pitch, of that we can be sure. Utd’s saviour, goalkeeper David de Gea, will be there and will doubtless frustrate the hell out of Southampton’s attackers all night, as the defenders in front of him will assuredly offer them numerous opportunities in a manner one should not expect from a top side. If de Gea hasn’t been offered the Freedom of the City of Manchester already, then something is fairly off in the state of Denmark.
What is in Utd’s favour, however, is their home form, which stands in stark contrast to the form they display on their travels. Even with that, though, those who have seen them play recently wouldn’t have been overly impressed. Too often ponderous and, weirdly enough given the stellar attacking talent they possess, lacking in ideas, they could be ripe for the picking for a Southampton team who have dragged themselves up from a pre-Christmas slump to re-establish themselves in the top four, one point behind Utd. The price of 19/5 from Boylesports for a Southampton win is very tempting but maybe the more sensible money is on the draw which Boylesports (again) are offering at 14/5.