There’s no Premier League fixtures this weekend, which is probably for the best considering there’s been about 10 games a day for the last month. Instead, we turn our attention to the beauty of the FA Cup. We’ll focus on a few of the live TV games and will be tipping up an odds-on multi, of all things. Whilst this isn’t usually this column’s style, if you look at the teams in question there’s a good argument that all three of the favourites could easily be a bit shorter considering their likely attitude towards the competition.
With all manner of team changes expected across the board, it’s hard to get stuck in to any goalscorer or player-based markets, but we can look back at how seriously certain teams seem to have taken the FA Cup in recent years and back them with more confidence than some of the others.
First up, live on BBC One on Saturday, 12:45, is Fleetwood vs Leicester. Back in August 2011, Fleetwood were languishing in non-league football and they weren’t exactly on many fans’ radars. Just before the season started, they signed Jamie Vardy from Halifax Town for £150,000. He scored 34 goals in 42 games and 9 months later, Fleetwood were promoted, Championship side Leicester paid £1,000,000 for him, and the rest is history. Fleetwood are now mid-table in League 1, Vardy has won the Premier League and has 19 England caps under his belt.
Surely Claude Puel gives Vardy at least some game time back at the place where it all started. Even if he doesn’t, Leicester look big enough at 4/7 (general). There’s a gulf in class between the two sides, of course, but when you consider Leicester’s position and Puel’s knockout competition history the 4/7 looks bigger and bigger.
Leicester aren’t going to qualify for the Champions League. They aren’t going to get relegated. Therefore, the FA Cup represents their only realistic chance of silverware. Puel took Southampton to the League Cup Final last year and got Lyon to the semi-finals of the Champions League (for the first time in their history) in 2010. No way Leicester don’t take this competition seriously, neither will they want a replay. 4/7 will do us just fine, thank you very much.
The other live TV game on Saturday is Norwich v Chelsea, 17:30, BT Sport 2. Norwich are 13th in the Championship and don’t have much to report this season. Chelsea can’t win the league and have no Champions League commitments until next month so we see no reason why they shouldn’t take this one seriously. Whilst we aren’t exactly rushing to the bookies to back the 1/2 Chelsea, it will certainly do in the treble with Leicester, and another midlands side in one of the non-live games…
Wolves are 8/11 with William Hill at home to Swansea, 15.00 (Non-TV). That will absolutely do. Wolves have won a whopping 19 of 26 in the league this season and are already on a victory lap- 12 points clear at the top of the Championship. Winning is contagious and confidence is high at Molineux. Unfortunately for Swansea, losing is contagious also. They’ve won just 4 of their 22 league games this season and look completely devoid of ideas. Wolves are simply a much better team than Swansea at the moment, and we’re confident they oblige.
Whilst it’s true that Wolves will probably rest some of their big guns- Swansea simply have to. They will be in a relegation dogfight for the next few months and with the back-breaking Premier League festive period only just finished, there are some tired legs making the trip from Wales up to Birmingham this weekend. Even if it ends up being Wolves Reserves v Swansea Reserves- 8/11 at home is certainly big enough.
In summary, if you only have one bet this weekend, make it Leicester to beat Fleetwood at 4/7.
If you fancy something a bit more speculative, there are far worse bets out there than the Leicester, Wolves and Chelsea treble, which pays just over 100/30 if you shop around.
If you’re looking for teams to oppose- who are less likely to take the FA Cup seriously (shame on them)- then there are a few sides who look vulnerable at odds-on this weekend when you consider what they have to play for in their respective leagues.
Leeds are too short at 10/11 to beat Newport away, in the first TV game on Sunday (12:00).
Stevenage are worth a dabble at 14/5 at home to a Reading side that leaks goals, and is looking over its shoulder in the Championship.
Finally, Cardiff will doubtless rest players as they welcome Mansfield. They will need all their resources to keep up their push for automatic promotion to the Premier League and the FA Cup simply pales into insignificance with such a prize on offer. We’ll be laying Cardiff at 1.6 or shorter.
Best of luck, and enjoy the games.
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