The first certainty of the weekend is that the 16 FA Cup fourth-round fixtures have to go down as the most uninspiring for many a year.
That’s a given with the likes of Torquay matched against Crawley and Sheffield Wednesday drawn out of the hat with Hereford and the only tie that in any way floats neutral boats is the one at Goodison Park between Everton and Chelsea on Saturday dinner time.
That doesn’t mean to say we can’t make money, though and the second and third certainties over the next few days dictate that all we have to do is roll up at the bookies, place a double and sit back and wait until it’s time to collect the winnings.
Certainties I reckon in the shape of Bolton and Burnley who should easily dispose of Wigan and Burton respectively at the first time of asking and yet the combined price for both doing so is a monster 11/8.
Get on large is the advice with our selections seemingly having far too much in hand for their opponents.
Let’s take Bolton for example, a side, despite Monday’s hammering by Chelsea, that are currently enjoying a renaissance under the astute leadership of Owen Coyle. They’re fit, they’re strong and they’re tough as teak in stark contrast to a Wigan side that for the past 18 months has looked as flimsy as balsa wood when put under any sort of pressure.
And just to clinch it the Trotters – judging by the players asked to do a job against non-league York in the last round – will likely field a near-strength starting XI which if they so wish will include recent signing David Wheater who avoided getting cup-tied whilst at
Midweek victors Bolton and Spurs clash at White Hart Lane
Spurs and Bolton meet at White Hart Lane on Saturday with both sides looking to bounce back from a mid season dip in form and push on towards qualification for European football next year. Spurs will be looking to keep pressure on fourth placed Chelsea and can join their London rivals on 44 points with a win, whilst Bolton will be keen to complete the double over Harry Redknapp’s men after winning 4-2 at the Reebok Stadium earlier in the season.
Tottenham go into Saturday’s fixture as the bookies favourite and will be looking to build on the three clean sheets that they have kept at home in their last three League outings at the Lane; the chances of which will be helped by the return of England International centre back Michael Dawson, who should start in the place of Sebastian Bassong. Spurs form of late has not been up to Champions League standard however, with only one win in their last five games – a 1-0 victory over Blackburn at Ewood Park in midweek. Harry Redknapp has called for his strikers to fire them into Champions League contention, and Peter Crouch duly answered against Rovers to head the winner; he should start again up-front alongside Jermaine Defoe. Spurs have only scored 33 goals in their 24 League outings this season, considerably less than the teams above them, and they will need to improve this if they are to challenge for Europe’s Elite club competition.
January signing Steven Pienaar is fit to play and is contention to start on the left wing in the absence of flying Welshman Gareth Bale, who is not yet fit to return to the starting line-up. Spurs will also be without Croatian playmaker Luka Modric, a player who has been at the fulcrum of Spurs’s creativity and style much acclaimed over the last 12 months. Tom Huddlestone is still missing, so Wilson Palacios should deputise alongside Jermaine Jenas in the centre of the park. Redknapp revealed this week that he had the chance to sign experienced Dutch defensive midfielder Mark Van Bommel in the transfer window, which he spurned; the Spurs gaffer probably wishes he could call upon the now AC Milan midfielder with Tom Huddlestone still in recovery.
Like Spurs, Bolton have had a run of poor results of late but got back to winning ways in midweek, also with a 1-0 win at home to Wolves. New loan signing Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to score the winner in that game, and is expected to get his first start for the Trotters on Saturday afternoon. Sturridge was something of a revelation in his time at Manchester City but has found his chances very limited at Chelsea and will be looking to reignite his career during his loan spell at Bolton.