(Kieran Richardson has been maturing & improving at Sunderland)
We couldn't let this weekend go without picking out one for the FA Cup & we think that Sunderland to beat Arsenal would be a popular piece of cup magic with Martin O'Neill continuing to work the oracle at the North East club. Sunderland were a little unfortunate to come away with nothing in the league meeting here at the Stadium of Light last Saturday after holding the Gunners for 70 minutes before taking the lead through the impressive (& impressively tattooed too!) James McLean as they allowed Aaron Ramsey to equalise & then the now departed Thierry Henry to get the winner. Circumstances are different now, Arsenal were on a bit if a high with Henry back but he's now jetted back to the US & they are coming off a crushing midweek defeat to AC Milan in the San Siro. That game on Wednesday should mean that Sunderland are both fresher & more prepared for this mentally & Arsenal will know that if they lose here that yet another season without a trophy awaits them. Arsenal's defence still has problems with even Tomas Vermaelen not looking great at times whereas Sunderland have a really effective unit & Michael Turner has done well in the absence of Wes Brown, the other ex-Man United players in defence of Bardsley, O'Shea & the underrated Kieran Richardson have all contributed to allowing the forward players to play some great counterattacking football. McLean has obviously been a real gem for the Black Cats but Stephane Sessegnon has impressed throughout the season with some great inventive play & some cool finishing. The worry for Arsenal is that they face a real hangover from the Champions League, even without that Sunderland are playing such good football they'd have a very real chance & with O'Neill taking this cup challenge very seriously they offer awesome value at 19/10 to win.
(The passionate Paulo Di Canio has his Swindon side firing on all cylinders)
In League Two, Swindon Town travel to Hereford at Edgar Street, Swindon are in 4th position with only two points separating the sides from 1st to 6th places whilst Hereford are in 21st spot facing a relegation battle. The Robins are in a formidable run of form with only one defeat in the league since October 2011 plus a FA Cup victory over Premiership Wigan Athletic & a pending trip to Wembley for the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final. On Tuesday night a stunning strike from Billy Bodin put them on their way to beating promotion rivals Crawley Town 3-0 & they have won their last six league matches: scoring 14 & only conceding three. Hosts Hereford have struggled all season & have lost exactly half their league games, they have gained more points on the road this season than at Edgar Street where they have only 12 points from 16 games with 10 defeats & have conceded on average nearly two goals per game. Swindon can prove to be far too strong for a poor Hereford side as they look to continue their fine form at a best price of 5/6 with Coral.
(All in a day's work for Sheffield United captain Chris Morgan)
In League One in form Sheffield United take on Preston North End at Bramall Lane in what very much used to be a ‘Championship’ fixture. The Blades find themselves currently sitting in the second automatic promotion spot behind Charlton after a fantastic run of results, Danny Wilson’s side head the form table with a very impressive 5 wins in their last 6 league outings, more impressive though is the Red and White’s home form in which they have won 6 out of 6 scoring 16 and conceding just 2. Saturday’s opponents Preston have been gaining mixed results of late with Graham Westley beginning to steady the ship after his arrival from Stevenage just over a month ago; they come into the game on the back of a win having defeated
Hartlepool with a fantastic strike from Dan Mayor on Tuesday night. Highlights of the game (courtesy of the BBC) can be seen here. As the highlights suggest Preston were a touch lucky to take all three points having invited the visitors to have 15 shots (to their 4) efforts on goal. We think that Sheffield United, with Ched Evans spearheading the attack, will prove that much more clinical in front of goal and collect all three points. United are available at a best price of 4/7 with Ladbrokes and Coral.
Sunderland to beat Arsenal at 19/10 (PaddyPower)
Swindon Town to beat Hereford United at 5/6 (Coral)
Sheffield United to beat Preston North End at 4/7 (Ladbrokes and Coral)