FA Cup Round 3 Selected Predictions
Rochdale 0-1 Newcastle
Bournemouth 1-1 Luton
Fulham 2-1 Aston Villa
Leicester 3-0 Wigan
Manchester City 5-0 Port Vale
Wolves 2-2 Manchester United
Chelsea 3-0 Nottingham Forest
Middlesbrough 1-2 Tottenham
Liverpool 1-2 Everton
Gillingham 0-2 West Ham
Arsenal 2-0 Leeds Utd
The FA Cup begins tomorrow and I’m not foreseeing any major upsets, although I imagine the likes of Liverpool, Aston Villa,Bournemouth and Norwich will all be happy to go out, so that can concentrate on the Premiership. I also fancy Manchester United to edge out a Wolves team who have already played 40 matches this season and could be forgiven for not pushing for a cup run here. United are 10/11 to Qualify and 5/2 to settle things tomorrow.
There is still huge value on Liverpool being dumped out the competition at this early stage. They will certainly make wholesale changes, and we may see a team similar to that which got beaten 5-0 by Aston Villa. Everton will be desperate for a cup run to compensate for a poor season and the same can be said for Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester United, all of whom I expect to see in Round 4, along with the holders, Manchester City, who should put 4 or 5 tomorrow even if they rotate their whole team.
EPL Mid-term Report
The mid-term report is a relatively straight forward one. Liverpool have already won the league because several teams have massively under-achieved this season. While it can’t be doubted that their unbeaten record – with 19 wins from 20 matches – deserves huge credit, and they would’ve won a closer title race anyway, it’s obviously easier to see things out when you have zero challengers for the title.
While Manchester City themselves have fallen well short of The Reds, their efforts haven’t been as embarrassing as Tottenham, last year’s Champions League finalists, Arsenal, who are sitting in mid-table, and Manchester United, who turn up when they feel like it. Chelsea’s season needs to be looked at differently, as this is a young team in transition, and one would have to judge a top 4 finish a huge success, despite their obvious inconsistencies.
Aside from Liverpool, Leicester and Sheffield United have to be looked at as the success stories of the league. With Leicester earmarked for a top half finish by many and Sheffield United favourites for relegation, both have punched well above expectations. Meanwhile, the likes of Everton and West Ham continue to disappoint and perform below expectations, much like they have done throughout most of the last decade, with both teams changing their managers, along with Arsenal, Watford and Tottenham. The season has delivered a record number of sackings so far, with six managerial sackings so far.
Mid-Season Combined XI
I could put in eleven Liverpool players, but I’ll make a case for not doing that. Schmeichel hasn’t missed any games, whilst Becker was out for months. Meanwhile, at Centre back, Liverpool have rotated VVD’s partner through injury, allowing Evans to slip in ahead of Soyuncu or Baldock. In midfield, I think Ndidi and Lundstram have been exceptional for the clubs, as have Maddison and De Bruyne, while I would consider none of Liverpool’s three midfielders to be key players, in what is a very workmanlike midfield trio. Finally, I’ve opted for Vardy and Grealish over Salah and Firmino, on the basis that Vardy has outscored everyone, while Grealish has carried an entire team on his back.