Spurs bowed out of the Champions League with a Wembley defeat to Juventus but a thumping 4-1 win at Bournemouth just a few days later was the perfect tonic. Despite falling at the first knockout stage of the elite competition, there is still plenty to play for as Tottenham go in search of a top four Premier League place and an FA Cup.
The quarter-finals of the world’s oldest cup competition take place this weekend and Pochettino’s men face Premier League strugglers Swansea in the early kick-off on Saturday. Carlos Carvalhal has had quite the impact at the Welsh club and has guided them out of the bottom three up to 14th. The Swans are still in the relegation battle, but the FA Cup provides a welcome distraction as they bid for a semi-final slot.
In other games, Chelsea travel to Leicester after suffering a 3-0 defeat at Barcelona in midweek, while the surprise of the competition – Wigan – face another Premier League club on home ground in the shape of Southampton. The Latics have already put Bournemouth, West Ham, and Manchester City to the sword in this year’s cup run so they should fear nothing from a Saints’ side hovering perilously above the drop zone.
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Spurs are hot favourites to win but in search of a bit more of a payout, we’re backing them to win a game in which both teams score at odds of +260 with 888Sport.
Swansea fans will be quick to point out that it’s a bold call as their side has won seven home games on the trot, but Spurs have won on four of their last five visits here – three of those when both teams have scored. Swansea’s good run includes wins over Liverpool and Arsenal, but the last side to beat them in Wales was Spurs, who recorded a 2-0 victory in January. Swansea have managed three clean sheets in that run of seven, but the likes of West Ham, Wolves, and Notts County have all found the net in defeat here.
Spurs were left licking their wounds after that loss to Juve, but they bounced back in perfect fashion with a thumping win at Bournemouth. Son Heung-Min was on target again and the Korean is in a great vein of form at the moment. That will come as a relief to Pochettino who has lost the services of star striker Harry Kane until at least April according to reports. Backup forward Llorente could be in line for a return to his former club, and the likes of Eriksen and Alli will need to step up to fill the boots of the England marksman.
Spurs have been held to draws away in the FA Cup by Newport and Rochdale before winning both replays, which should serve as a warning note, but Swansea might play into Tottenham’s hands here. If Carvalhal’s side push forward they could be hit on the break by Spurs fast counter-attacking play and we’re backing the London club to go through at the first time of asking on Saturday.
Next up it’s Leicester vs Chelsea, and odds of -135 with ComeOn about both teams to score look very tempting.
Chelsea have lost three of the last four matches although it’s a run which included games against Manchester United, Manchester City, and Barcelona. In-between those matches, the Blues beat Crystal Palace by two goals to one, and are certainly good enough to take the game to Leicester. Antonio Conte knew his side were up against it at the Nou Camp in the Champions League, but despite the 3-0 scoreline, they didn’t play particularly badly on the night. A top four place at the end of this season will be the ultimate aim, but the FA Cup is the last trophy they have left to fight for and it is worth remembering that Conte has never won a domestic cup competition in his managerial career. Rumours persist that the Italian could be out of a job just a year after leading his side to the title and he would love to bow out with another trophy.
Standing in his way will be the previous years’ Premier League champions, Leicester. The Foxes are in the midst of an up-and-down season, but are chasing Burnley for 7th place and a potential European spot. the 4-1 win at West Brom over the weekend saw both Vardy and Mahrez back on the scoresheet and back in tandem, and that is a huge positive for Leicester fans.
Both teams have scored in 7 of the last 8 Leicester games and Chelsea have only failed to score in 2 of their last 8 – away at Manchester City and Barcelona. The Blues have also conceded in each of their last five away matches, so Sunday’s game could be primed for goals.
Finally, let’s ride Wigan’s wave of enthusiasm and back them to avoid defeat at home to Southampton at odds of -135 with 888Sport.
The Latics stunned Pep Guardiola by beating his side 1-0 against the odds in the last round, but nobody could say they didn’t have previous form. Wigan have also taken the Premier League scalps of Bournemouth and West Ham in this year’s FA Cup, and while promotion back to the championship is the priority, there is little to beat the romance of the FA Cup.
The Latics have only lost 1 of the last 13 at home and there is no reason why they shouldn’t hold their own against a struggling Southampton. Remarkably, they’ve kept 10 clean sheets in those 13 games and have a solid defensive rearguard – as Manchester City found out at their peril.
Southampton are only one point and one place above the Premier League relegation zone, and this is a tough game for new manager Mark Hughes to contend with. His number one priority will be staying in the top-flight but this is an opportunity to reach the last four in the FA Cup. At least beyond this game there is an international break, so one suspects Hughes will not want to rest players in his first game in charge. However, the Saints’ only away wins in recent months have come at West Brom and Fulham – two sides not renowned for keeping out goals. Plenty of punters will back Southampton to win here but the odds are too short given the circumstances.
Spurs to beat Swansea and both teams to score
Saturday 17th March, 12:30 GMT
Leicester v Chelsea – both teams to score
Sunday 18th March, 16:30 GMT
Wigan or draw – Double chance
Sunday 18th March, 13:30 GMT