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22/1/2009 No.23
rendspotting Football/Rugby
Dan Roebuck
Thursday 22 Jan 2009
Given Chelsea's indifferent form recently, it seems strange that they remain joint favourites to win the FA Cup ahead of this weekend's fourth round. Weight of money could have something to do with it, with Extrabet reporting a wager of £5,000 at 7–2 on Chelsea. But the bookmakers still appear to be erring on the side of caution when quoting a general 4–1 on Chelsea repeating their 2007 triumph. Manchester United are also freely available at 4–1, with Arsenal and Liverpool both 6–1.

It is surprising that United are not clear favourites, especially as tomorrow's opponents, Tottenham, are likely to send a "mishmash" of a side to Old Trafford, according to their manager, Harry Redknapp. Layers are seriously worried that United will win the quadruple after they reached the Carling Cup final this week. Bet365 offered 300–1 in August that United will win four trophies this season – that is now 40–1.

One of the Premier League's big four is expected to win the FA Cup, with Paddy Power quoting 4–9 on one doing so and 13–8 on any other team lifting the trophy. This column's selection prior to the third round, Aston Villa, are now best at 11–1 (Blue Square and Coral) from 18–1, while ­Tottenham are 25–1 (general), Fulham 28–1 (general), West Ham 28–1 (Ladbrokes), Everton 33–1 (Sky Bet), Portsmouth 33–1 (general) and 40–1 bar. Villa, who play Doncaster away tomorrow, still look overpriced at 11–1, and those without an interest in the outright market could do worse than back Villa.

Those looking for a quicker return on their money might be more interested in the standout punts this weekend. There has been money for Hartlepool to defeat West Ham (Extrabet report a £3,000 wager at 7–2) but a more likely place for an upset could be the KC Stadium, where Hull City entertain Millwall.

Phil Brown played an understrength team in both third-round games against Newcastle and Hull were fortunate to win the replay. With wholesale changes expected to the line-up that lost 3-1 to Arsenal in the league last time out, Millwall, fourth in League One and with just one defeat in their past 13 matches, could take advantage. They are 11–2 (general) to win, with Hull 8–13 (general) and the draw 14–5 (William Hill).'

There will be plenty of takers of the 11–2 on an away win but there are two better options. First, a lay of Hull at 1.68 (4–6) on Betfair, meaning the draw as well as a Millwall win is in your favour, and second, a sell of Hull's supremacy at 1.1 with Sporting Index, which means you will still return a profit if the Tigers win 1–0.

Half the battle for punters when it comes to the FA Cup is trying to predict which leading teams are taking it as seriously as the Premier League. Those managers, like Brown and Redknapp, who have made it known they won't be fielding their best XI, at least give bettors the information needed to beat the bookmakers.

Unlike the Hull and Spurs managers, Arsène Wenger has suggested the team he chooses to face Cardiff this Sunday will not be too dissimilar to one he would use for a Premier League game. Given the proximity to Arsenal's tough league clash away at Everton next Wednesday though, Wenger could rotate his squad slightly and it would be no surprise to see Nicklas ­Bendtner, scoring substitute in both Arsenal's last two games, start at Ninian Park. If he does, the Dane is attractively priced at 13–8 (Stan James) to score at any time.

Rafael Benítez could rest players in Liverpool's Merseyside derby against Everton on Sunday but there were few chances at Anfield when the two met in the league on Monday night and this tie could easily be a repeat of that draw. Extrabet and Paddy Power offer 5–2 on a stalemate.

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