Manchester City v Brighton – 6th April – 17:30 GMT
FA Cup semi-final weekend kicks off with the latest leg of Man City’s quest for the quadruple. A midweek win over Cardiff took them back to the top of the Premier League and next week they have the first-leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final against Tottenham.
With the Carabao Cup already in the bag, Guardiola’s men have an opportunity to create history and will be desperate not to slip up against a Brighton side who are still ensconced in a battle of their own, for Premier League survival.
Those fears will have been put on hold for a week, however, and Chris Hughton’s Seagulls will try and use the respite from their relegation battle as a positive. Against a City side who are expected to win, Brighton will be able to play with a freedom that’s been missing over the last few months.
The last time they faced City, Brighton lost 2-0 – at the Etihad back in September with goals from Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero – and although it was a defeat, it was a result they will have taken some heart from. Many other teams have gone there this season and come away with a resounding defeat, so Hughton will see that as a decent base to build on.
TOP TIP! – City to win 3-1 @ 11/112.00+110011.0011.00-0.09 / First goal between mins 21-45 @ 8/19.00+8008.008.00-0.13
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The Brighton manager has built a reputation on producing sides who are well organised and hard to break down and will have his side well drilled ahead of Saturday’s showdown.
While the big open spaces of the Wembley pitch will naturally favour City’s expansive style, Hughton will use 2 banks of defenders and midfielders to try and make the pitch smaller and not allow City the freedom to play between the lines.
An in-form Kevin de Bruyne could tear Brighton apart if given time and space to dictate, but the Seagulls’ midfield – led by Dale Stevens – will look to deny him that and make the game bitty and disjointed.
Key too will be how solid and together Brighton’s centre-back pairing of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy can stay, particularly given the movement and energy of Sterling and Aguero, and one thing they cannot afford to do is concede an early goal.
But, if they can keep it tight early on and deny City the ability to settle into their passing rhythm, then it could be a much tighter game than many pundits and bookies are predicting.
Odds of 1/71.14-7000.14-7.000.14 for the straight City win are frankly ridiculous given what is at stake, and we genuinely believe that Hughton’s side are capable of springing a surprise. So much so, we’d certainly not deter anyone having a piece of 28/129.00+280028.0028.00-0.04 for the Brighton win.
But the pragmatists will be looking at the City win and specifically the size of City’s win. While we’d be tempted on a small bet for the Seagulls win, realistically Guardiola’s men have too much quality and too much to lose, so we think 3-1 to City at 11/112.00+110011.0011.00-0.09 offers some value.
Also, the timing of the first goal offers up some interesting bets, and as we think Brighton will survive the opening 20 before conceding, 21-45 minutes for the opening goal at 8/19.00+8008.008.00-0.13 with looks more than fair.
Watford v Wolverhampton Wanderers – 6th April – 16:00 GMT
TOP TIP! – Watford to win 2-1 @ 9/110.00+9009.009.00-0.11 / Deeney as final goalscorer @ 13/27.50+6506.506.50-0.15
On paper, this one looks much more even than the Man City vs Brighton game and really is a tough one to call. Both sides have excelled in the Premier League this season and are locked in the battle of the ‘best of the rest’ – otherwise known as seventh place.
After 32 league games, there is just a single point between the sides, which tells us all we need to know. Ultimately, this will probably boil down to which team handles the occasion better.
The Old Gold certainly have creativity in the midfield – through the Portuguese pairing of Rúben Neves and João Moutinho – and in the final third the pairing of Diogo Jota and Raúl Jiménez look full of goals.
If Watford allow them to settle, Wolves will win the game, but the Hornets have picked up some fine results in this campaign under the tutelage of Javi Gracia, and their 4-1 win over Fulham in midweek saw them break their Premier League points record.
They have had some tough games to negotiate to get to the semi-final, beating Newcastle, QPR and Crystal Palace on the way. There will be a contrast of styles as Watford play in a more physical, robust style than Wolves, but they have match-winners in their ranks too, not least in the form of veteran striker, Troy Deeney.
They do however have some injury doubts to contend with – Roberto Pereyra picked up a knock in the Fulham game, with Isaac Success, Adalberto Penaranda and Tom Cleverley also missing recent games through injury.
Watford’s squad has depth though, and even with the injuries, this remains an incredibly tough one to call. The bookies only just favour Wolves, largely due to last weekend’s win over Man Utd, but we have a feeling that this could be Deeney’s day.
With most of his career spent leading the line at Vicarage Road, he deserves a big occasion and what better way than to grab a goal and to lead his side to a FA Cup final?
So, we’re going 2-1 Watford 9/110.00+9009.009.00-0.11 with 888sport, with Deeney scoring a late winner 13/27.50+6506.506.50-0.15 with Bet365.
Chelsea v West Ham Utd – 8th April – 20:00 GMT
TOP TIP! – Chelsea to win 3-0 @ 17/29.50+8508.508.50-0.12 / Hudson-Odoi as last goalscorer @ 11/26.50+5505.505.50-0.18
The weekend’s football will be rounded off on Monday night with an old-fashioned London derby as east meets west at Stamford Bridge. West Ham will travel across London to take on the Pensioners of King’s Road, in a game the Blues can ill afford to lose.
While the Premier League title has been well and truly out of the reach of Sarri’s Chelsea for some time, they are now locked in a four-way battle for a champions league place with Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester Utd. There are currently just three points separating the four teams, and so for the Blues, this has become a must-win.
West Ham’s up-and-down season took another twist at the weekend when they lost disappointingly at home to Everton, so despite derbies being ‘levellers’, we can’t see Chelsea slipping up here.
With Reuben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi finally getting game time, we can see a reinvigorated Chelsea winning this comfortably. We’re going 3-0 17/29.50+8508.508.50-0.12 with Bet365 with Hudson-Odoi rounding proceedings off with his first Premier League goal 11/26.50+5505.505.50-0.18 with Bet365.
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Carl is the original ‘Special One’ and uses his statistical knowledge of football to gain the upper hand over the bookies on a weekly basis. A student of odds and probabilities, ‘Wrighty’ pinpoints the value bets in the top leagues across Europe. A big signing for the SBO.net sports team, Carl brings his vast experience of playing the odds and beating the bookies to a weekly column highlighting the very best football bets.
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