The FA Cup returns this weekend as the Premier League takes the weekend off but returns with a full fixture list the following Tuesday and Wednesday, so it is time for the old 'Romance of the Cup' to come along and throw form and league position out of the window for those teams looking to do a bit of 'giant killing' this Saturday and Sunday.
Manchester United vs. Fulham
Fulham's best chance may be to earn a draw and a replay back at Craven Cottage which is available at 9/2 with Ladbrokes right now. United are 1/4 to win this one at the first attempt with William Hill.
United did need a replay to get past West Ham in the last round 1-0 after equalising in the final minute at Upton Park through RVP's wonder strike, but then Fulham needed a late leveller to earn a replay with Championship side Blackpool and then another as they equalised with the last kick of normal time in that replay before going through in extra time 2-1. So neither side being overly dominant in the Cup so far but they are both there in the 4th round regardless.
Manchester United are 4/1 to lift the Cup whereas the Londoner's are at 50/1 to go all the way with William Hill to further add fuel to the fire that this will be a one-sided affair. The two sides met back on 25th August in the league for what was the second game of the season and although Fulham went 1-0 up then 3-1 down and put up a brave fight, they eventually ran out 3-2 losers in that match despite having some late chances to level it at the end! A repeat of that score to United is at 25/1 with William Hill and bet365 and if you think Fulham could manage to turn the form book on it's head and manage that scoreline then it's yours for 66/1 with both those betting houses but I do not expect a single taker of that bet!
Record signing from Man Utd Dimitar Berbatov did not play in that game and so this is his first time back at his old club since joining the Cottager's. He will have something to prove for sure and his mercurial and languid style and undoubted goal scoring prowess may have some of you backing him to score against his previous employers and he is 10/3 to do so, but it is much more likely that 22 goal RVP will get on the score sheet if he is not rested for this one. That equation always comes into play as United are fighting on three fronts what with the Champions League re-starting February 12th, so it is all about squad rotation for them and with Rooney now back Ferguson has several permutations to choose from with Hernandez and Wellbeck both fit also.
United drew 1-1 thanks to a late Spurs equalizer by Fulham old boy Clint Dempsey this Sunday to see their lead in the EPL cut to five points ahead of Man City who coincidentally beat Fulham 2-0 in a game that Martin Jol's men hardly threatened in. With the games coming thick and fast for United, they have Southampton in the league the following Wednesday, they may have a 'weakened' side out for this one but that is a relative term with the squad at Ferguson's disposal. Fulham wish they had that depth of talent to call upon and it has to be said that of late they have been poor, very poor, after a promising start to the season. They sit 31 points and thirteen places below United in the Premier League and are definitely looking over their shoulders at the battle below them as they are just six points above the relegation places now.
Fulham have won just twice in 14 league games and lost to sides in the bottom three and draw against others below them to really see the pressure mount and although a Cup run and wining is never a bad thing I am sure that Fulham would trade going out of the Cup for three points against United when the two meet in the league in London one week after this tie!
I honestly do not see Fulham posing much threat to United and deny it or not, they will not be expecting much from this game and will be more focused on the up coming London Derby at home to West Ham that is sandwiched between the two matches with United, especially as they are two points and two places below the east London outfit going into that one.
For me the best pointer in this games lies in United and how they approach this game and therefore how much they value the FA Cup and with a Boss like Ferguson and with his record, they will not be allowed to let up in this one though he may well shuffle the team quite a lot from the side that started their last match. United have never, yes never, lost at Old Trafford under Sir Alex when leading at half time and will be wanting to put this one to bed early and convincingly so expect them to come out firing and so am liking them to win this in both halves though 7/10 to win both halves does not represent the best value I know. Fulham to hold them til the second half before losing is a more attractive 16/5 and if you think Berbatov and friends can cause a stir in this one early before United come back and win it in the second half, then at least the value is there for that double result at 22/1, all those prices with William Hill. Fulham to break that formidable record and come back to win after trailing at half time is at 50/1 with the same house.
The best soccer betting value for me is with a little bit of correct score betting in this one and I fancy United to bag two or three but as they have shown all season, clean sheets are at a premium even for them and so am liking 2-1 at 17/2 and also 3-1 at 9/1 with bet365. That puts the game into the over 2.5 in both cases at 1/2 with bet365 but for those of you who think Fulham will not even notch a goal in this one 2-0 is at 6/1 and the under 2.5 is 6/4 both with bet365.
Fulham to pull off a shock in this one and take it first time round at Old Trafford is as I said 11/1 and as I could only see them doing so by the odd goal in a low scoring backs against the wall defensive display then 1-0 to the visitors is available at 28/1 again from bet365 but you should know United have failed to score just once at home all season and that in the Champions League against Cluj when they were already safely through to the knockout stages but still, it shows anything is possible now doesn't it!
FA Cup Picks: Home win for me at 1/4 and a correct score of 2-0 at 13/2 and therefore the under 2.5 at 13/8
Looking for some more action? Be sure to check out my Leeds Utd vs. Tottenham FA Cup Tips & Predictions, as this game is packed full of betting value.