Welcome to "High Fives" the personal column of our ace Director of Football "Magic Mike".
Magic Mike's football credentials are first class. Last season he handily beat the Beeb’s expert tipster “Lawro” who never got a look in after Magic took an early lead at the start of the 2008/09 season.
A good number of our players were rescued by Magic’s tips in our Five Lives scheme which automatically gives you his tips, up to five times during the season, should you forget to enter them yourself. Magic Mike's canny inside knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of players and teams, combined with a passion for getting it right, is what you need to make an impact in this game. It also means you're going to have to be at your best to outdo him.
The Management - Score Five
And now, once again, over to Magic Mike...
See what Mike had to say in the olden days - visit his 2008/09 season archives.
previous predictions - Round 20.... Round 19.... Round 18.... Round 17.... Round 16.... Round 15
Aston Villa vs. Blackburn Rovers at Villa Park. Villa lost out in the battle for 3rd place in the Premier League last Sunday but look to continue their assault on all 3 competitions on the domestic front. This game is a dress-rehearsal for the 2-legged Carling Cup semi-final that will take place in January. For Blackburn the game is a distraction in the battle for Premier League safety and Sam Allardyce may rotate his squad for this game as he prioritizes Rovers ambitions for the remainder of the season.
Magic predicts: Aston Villa 3 - Blackburn Rovers 0
Bolton Wanderers vs. Lincoln City at the Reebok Stadium. Although Bolton are unbeaten in their last 4 league games it didn’t stop the axe from falling on Gary Megson. Steve Wigley and Chris Evans will take charge of team selection that will most likely feature some of Bolton’s squad players to give them some match practice against a Lincoln side who are struggling at the bottom of League 2. Lincoln’s team could include an ex-Wanderer in Delroy Facey, if his loan deal at Lincoln is extended until the end of the season. It should be an easy victory for Wanderers.
Magic predicts: Bolton Wanderers 2 - Lincoln City 0
Everton vs. Carlisle United at Goodison Park. A much needed victory against Burnley on Monday moved Everton to 11 place in the Premier League and David Moyes will be looking for an extended run in the FA Cup after what has been a disappointing and injury-plagued season for the Toffees. Last season Everton made it through to the final and Moyes would like to go one better this time around to win a competition that they last won 15 years ago.
Carlisle are currently in mid-table in league 1 but their side will feature several players with Premier League experience. Leeds and Irish international full-back Ian Harte is Carlisle’s top scorer so far this season and will be a threat from set pieces. Veteran Graham Cavanagh has Premier League experience with Wigan and Sunderland, Vince Pericard with Portsmouth and Stoke and Scott Dobie at West Brom. This will be a cup final for Carlisle and a stage for their former Premier League performers to show that they still have something to offer at a higher level.
A game not to be taken lightly by Everton.
Magic predicts: Everton 3 - Carlisle United 2
Fulham vs. Swindon Town at Craven Cottage Roy Hodgson’s side gave Chelsea a tough test on Monday before going down 2-1 and today Fulham can take a day off from the Premier league to focus on a competition in which their best run was 35 years ago. Bobby Zamora has been in excellent form for Fulham and he will be looking to add to his season’s scoring tally and put paid to Swindon’s threat.
Swindon are hoping to make it back to the Chamionship this season but a cup run would bring much needed cash to the coffers. The main threat for Swindon will be in the form of strike pair, Charlie Austin, who has scored 7 goals in his last 7 games , and Billy Paynter who is Swindon’s leading scorer in the League 1 competition.
Magic predicts: Fulham 2 - Swindon Town 0
Middlesbrough vs. Manchester City at the Riverside Stadium. Boro were a Premier League Club last season and after relegation and an exodus of players stand in mid-table in the Championship but will still be harbouring hopes of a return to the Premier League this term, although it looks ever-increasingly as this would have to come through the play-off route. With Gordon Strachan installed as manager, promotion will be the primary goal but Strachan, from his playing days at Manchester United would love nothing better to create an upset against the enemy.
Roberto Mancini with 2 Premier League wins under his belt can look forward to his first involvement in the football’s oldest competition. City will be pushing for honours on all fronts as they enter the 2nd half of the season and Mancini will be under some pressure to end City’s silverware drought that extends 34 years.
Magic predicts: Middlesbrough 0 - Manchester City 2
Milton Keynes Dons vs. Burnley at the MK Stadium Dons’ manager Paul Ince again has a chance to pit himself against Premier League opposition after his short unsuccessful spell as manager of Blackburn. Ince’s main priority for the Dons will be to take them into the Championship but today game gives an opportunity to show that the Dons can compete at a higher level. Jermaine Easter, who with 10 league goals for the Dons this season, will be a major threat to Burnley.
Burnley are a side that has struggled in recent weeks in the Premier League. Manager Owen Coyle’s first priority will be the continued fight for Premiership survival. The FA Cup competition could be an unwanted distraction or a chance for Burnley to re-group and gain some confidence by winning matches again. Their last victory in the league extends back to 9 games.
Magic predicts: Milton Keynes Dons 0 - Burnley 1
Nottingham Forest vs. Birmingham City at the City Stadium. A return to the Premiership will be the number 1 priority for Forest boss Billy Davies as his side remain well positioned in the Championship. Forest will be facing the Premier league form side in Birmingham who can now relax and look to have an extended run in the FA Cup. Birmingham’s defence withstood the Chelsea threat last Saturday and will be hard to breach.
Magic predicts: Nottingham Forest 0 - Birmingham City 1
Portsmouth vs. Coventry City at Fratton Park. Portsmouth missed out on the chance to lift themselves out of the bottom place in the Premier League when they lost at West Ham and they now embark on the FA Cup competition which they won in 2008. Portsmouth today are unrecognizable from the side of 2 years ago and with Avram Grant’s target for the season being survival, it’s unlikely that Portsmouth will repeat their run to Wembley 2 years ago.
Coventry City had a decent run in the competition last season before going down to winners Chelsea. Manager Chris Coleman will again be aiming for another run this season and will fancy his chances against a struggling Pompey side.
Magic predicts: Portsmouth 1 - Coventry City 2
Stoke City vs. York City at the Britannia Stadium. Stoke are currently in poor league form with both goals and points at a premium. It could be a welcome day off league action as Tony Pulis’s side look to rebuild their self-belief and against Conference League, York. The difference in class between the teams should ensure that Stoke hit the goal trail.
York are looking for a return to League 2 as a matter of priority this season. They can enjoy a day out at Stoke and the chance to earn some money but they are unlikely to progress beyond round 3. York will be pinning their hopes on Richard Brodie who, with 18 goals this season for York in the Conference, will be their main goal threat.
Stoke City 3 - York City 0
Sunderland vs. Barrow at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland are now 8 games without a win in the Premier League following the 2-2 draw at Blackburn but have an ideal chance to end that win-less sequence against Conference side Barrow. Barrow are struggling in the lower echelons of the Conference but did book their ticket to the 3rd round with a fine win over Conference leaders , Oxford United. The gulf in class between the sides should mean that Black Cats have an easy path to round 4.
Magic predicts: Sunderland 5 - Barrow 1
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Peterborough United at White Hart Lane. Harry Redknapp enjoyed FA Cup success with his Portsmouth side 2 years ago and will be looking for his Spurs side to challenge in the FA Cup competition this season. Spurs moved in 4th place in the Premier League following their derby victory over West Ham and with home advantage should have an easy passage to round 4 against a Peterborough side currently rock bottom in the Championship. Former England full back Danny Mills will feature for the Posh.
Magic predicts: Tottenham Hotspur 4 - Peterborough United 0
Wigan Athletic vs. Hull City at the DW Stadium. The FA Cup competition offers brief respite for both sides in their battle for survival in the Premiership. Wigan’s plight is not as bad as Hull’s, who are rooted in the bottom 3 with a daunting short term fixture list to follow.
Hugo Rodellega has been in tremendous for the Latics this season, his 7 goals so far this season have been vital to Wigan. Hull are still without the inspirational services of Jimmy Bullard, who would have relished a return to the club where he made his name. The cup competition will not be a priority for Roberto Martinez or Phil Brown. I would expect, Wigan, with home advantage to shade it.
Wigan Athletic 2 - Hull City 0
Reading vs. Liverpool at The Madejski Stadium. A tricky tie for Liverpool at Championship strugglers Reading. Only 2 years ago Reading were playing in the top flight but their playing squad today is virtually unrecognizable from that of 2 years ago in the Premiership, with many of their top players having moved on. From just missing out on a return to the Premier League last season, Reading are now fighting for Championship survival this term.
Although Liverpool have been in patchy form, they should be too strong for this current Reading side as Rafa Benitez looks to salvage Liverpool’s season by winning a competition that Liverpool last won 4 years ago.
Magic predicts: Reading 0 - Liverpool 2
Manchester United vs. Leeds United at Old Trafford. Despite Leeds’ demise in the English game, this fixture still whets the appetite. The Red Devils look to have put recent hiccups behind them as they took maximum points from their Christmas matches. The FA Cup competition is dear to Sir Alex Ferguson as this was the first piece of silverware he won at Manchester United in 1990 and subsequently his sides have gone on to lift the cup on 4 more occasions, the last time being 6 years ago.
Leeds look to be in revival as they lead League 1 by 8 points. It will be a day out for Leeds supporters who will no doubt turn out in numbers to support their side. The main priority for Leeds this season though is a return to the Championship and although Simon Grayson will expect his side to give it their all, a result at Old Trafford looks unlikely. Jermaine Beckford, who with 14 league goals for Leeds this season, will be the main goal threat.
Magic predicts: Manchester United 3 - Leeds United 0 Banker
Chelsea vs Watford at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea met Watford in round 5 last season on the way to successfully winning the trophy. Drawn with home advantage this time around Chelsea should have no problems in taking the first step to retaining the trophy they won in May against Everton.
Magic Predicts: Chelsea 3 - Watford 0
West Ham United vs. Arsenal at Upton Park. Arsenal will be favourites to come through the third all Premier League tie of the round. In October, West Ham did hold Arsenal to a 2-2 draw with a late fight-back and Gianfranco Zola will be looking for that same spirit to shine through today. West Ham are still missing the services of their leading goal scorer Carlton Cole and if they are to progress in the competition they will be looking for inspirational performance from their captain Scott Parker and former Arsenal and England centre back Matthew Upson.
Arsenal have surged back into contention for the Premier League title in recent weeks following some slip-ups by leaders Chelsea and Manchester United. Arsene Wenger will still be looking for an FA Cup run and will be hoping to go one better than last season when Arsenal lost in the semi-final stage of the competition to Chelsea.
Magic predicts: West Ham United 1 - Arsenal 2
Tranmere Rovers vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers at Prenton Park. League 1 strugglers, Tranmere have a chance of glory when they take on Wolves. Prenton Park is a small pitch and that will equalize somewhat the superior skills of the Premier League side. It will be interesting to see if Mick McCarthy fields a full strength side or prefers to channel all efforts on Premier League survival.
Magic predicts: Tranmere Rovers 1 - Wolverhampton Wanderers 1