Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Gareth Southgate’s Middlesbrough side travel to Villa Park looking to put their FA Cup humiliation at the hands of Champions strugglers Cardiff behind them. With the Top Eight sides in the Premiership now out of the FA Cup, there’s only one UEFA cup place available through the league, which will go to the fifth placed team. That team is currently Everton, who lie eight points ahead of Villa with ten games left to play.
Zat Knight will replace Curtis Davies in the Villains defence following an Achilles injury, whilst Olof Mellberg and Nigel Reo-Coker both return from injuries. Boro welcome back Jeremie Aliadiere from his ridiculous four-match ban for the red card he received for cheek-brushing at Liverpool. Andrew Taylor and Seb Hines both miss out through injuries.
Chelsea v Derby
Two weeks ago, Chelsea were heading for a Quadruple haul of trophies. Fast forward two weeks, and courtesy of Spurs and Barnsley respectively, that fight is now down to two trophies, one of which they remain well behind the leaders. A win tonight is crucial. Spare a thought though for Derby fans, as these are troubles they would give their right arm to have, rather than be faced with the very real prospect of being the worst team ever relegated from the Premier League.
Derby are currently 16 points from safety, with just ten games to go. Their next two games? Chelsea and Manchester United. Oh dear… Derby have yet to win away from home all season, and Chelsea are unbeaten at home in 76. What odds on Derby taking that record? About the same as Barnsley knocking Chelsea out of the FA Cup… Oh.
It’s hard to see value in match result betting on this tie – Chelsea are priced at a “hardly worth it” 1/8 (VC Bet), whilst the draw (8/1, Bet 365) and Derby to win (25/1, also Bet 365) just don’t look likely.
Portsmouth v Birmingham
Portsmouth keeper David James has signed a new contract at the club today which will keep him at Fratton Park until the end of the 2009/10 season. He’s been on top form this season as Pompey enjoy their best-ever season in the Premier League.
Portsmouth, who are now the only Premier League side left in the FA Cup welcome Jermain Defoe back into the squad as he was cup-tied for the win over Manchester United, having played in Tottenham’s defeat to… Manchester United. There are no fresh injury concerns for Alex McLeish, who still has Olivier Kapo out through a hamstring injury and Martin Taylor is banned for his horror tackle on Eduardo two weeks ago.
Pompey are 10/11 favourites to win the tie (Bet 365), with Birmingham City all the way out at 15/4 (VC Bet). given their 4-1 thumping of Spurs last week, it might not be a bad bet. Boylesports have the draw at 5/2.