The Longshot: A clash of the titans in the FA Cup tonight

The Longshot: A clash of the titans in the FA Cup tonight

Pep Guardiola of Manchester City comes up against his former assistant manager Mikel Arteta for the first time this season tonight in the FA Cup.

WE finally get a long-awaited meeting of Man City and Arsenal tonight.

The Premier League looks to be a two-horse race after the Gunners impressed by overcoming Man United last weekend, however their first league fixture will not come until the evening after Valentine’s Day, a quirk of the split caused by the World Cup this season.

Tonight’s encounter is in the FA Cup at the Etihad and it might be a case of neither side caring to show too much of a hand in this competition, but it could offer a glimpse of an interesting tactical battle between Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta.

Combined, these two are scoring an average of more than five goals per game (98 between them already — 25 from Erling Haaland!) which highlights just how ruthless they are in attack. The two sides are also in the top three for clean sheets kept in the league.

Arsenal seem to have the greater momentum right now after going unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 competitive outings across all competitions.

City have netted in all 11 of their home league games while the Gunners have slotted in every single away outing so far. They also won 10 home FA Cup games in a row while scoring three or more in each game and 40 in all.

Arsenal rang the changes as they saw off Oxford United in the third round and City gave opportunities to fringe players in a comfortable win against Chelsea. The likes of Fabio Vieira and Matt Turner could feature again for the Gunners, while City may give cup keeper Stefan Ortega more minutes between the posts.

Arsenal have good memories of cup games against City, beating them on their way to their last two FA Cup triumphs in 2017 and 2020.

Yet City are unbeaten in Guardiola’s other 14 games against the Gunners, winning 13 and drawing just once — a 2-2 weeks before the 2017 semi-final. The home side are 5/6, while the draw and an Arsenal win are both 3/1.

 - Sean Dyche is now the 5/6 favourite to take over from Frank Lampard as the Everton boss

The Toffees’ main aim will now be to avoid relegation and the former Burnley boss has a fine reputation in negotiating that challenge and more.

Former Leeds boss, Argentine Marcelo Biesla had been the money-on favourite in mid-week, but has since drifted out to 7/2.

Bielsa was believed to be Everton owner Farhad Moshiri’s first choice, but after he put the club up for sale this week, at an asking price of £500m, things have changed on the blue side of Merseyside..

Ralph Hasenhuttl is 12/1. He left Southampton in November after four years in charge and, while his reign there had soured, he brought stability to the south coast club and kept them in the Premier League.

Wayne Rooney and Sam Allardyce, who would seem bananas appointments at this stage, are both 14/1.

Kansas City Chiefs up against their bogey team

OUR tip for the Super Bowl the Kansas City Chiefs come up against their bogey team the Cincinatti Bengals in the second game this Sunday evening as the competition enters the semi-final stages.

This a repeat match-up of last year’s incredibly dramatic AFC Championship game, which the Bengals won in overtime. This will be the fourth meeting between these two teams since last January, with Cincinnati winning all three times while being underdogs.

This time they come in as 4/5 favourites, despite the game being played at the Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City (which is in Missouri - get a map and check it out if you don’t believe me). Kansas is home to a huge Irish diaspora and holds a festival to celebrate it each year.

Quarterback Joe Burrow is the main reason the Ohio team enter the game as favourites. He is 3-0 on the road in his post-season career. In the opposite corner is probably the only man behind the scrimmage better than him in the NFL, Patrick Mahomes, who is trying to pass Tom Brady as the youngest quarterback in NFL history to reach three Super Bowls.

Mahomes had a linebacker land on his lower leg during a tackle in last week’s game and had to sit out most of the first half as a result. He is likely to be on a lot of painkillers to get through this game as a result. I still fancy them to avenge last year’s defeat at 11/10.

The first game on Sunday sees the Philadelphia Eagles (4/6) host the San Francisco 49ers (5/4).

The Philadelphia Eagles have been the NFC’s best team from the start of the season and made short work of the New York Giants last week.

This will be a significant test for the 49ers third-choice quarterback Purdy as he looks to continue his improbable run going from Mr Irrelevant (the very final pick in the draft) to potential Super Bowl starter.

The 49ers are still undefeated in Purdy’s starts, but Sunday will be the first time they have been underdogs in any of those games.

Sunday’s game against Dallas was the first time Purdy went against one of the league’s top defences this season, and it was probably his worst game of the year. But he was still good enough to get the win.

Keeping you in the picture for Oscar odds

FIVE Irish actors have been nominated for awards at the Oscars to be held on the second Sunday in March. That’s the most we’ve ever managed at the Academy Awards. Colin Farrell seems to be in with a shout for Best Actor at 3/1.

A surprise inclusion in this category was young Kildare man Paul Mescal, who is listed as a 33/1 outsider for his performance in Aftersun.

Mescal first came to our attention when he headed to Ballyhaunis after eating some sausages in an ad for Denny. He then became more famous after flaunting another sausage in the massive TV hit, Normal People.

Farrell is nominated for The Banshees of Inisherin, which has three other supporting actor odds.

Dubs Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan are 11/2 and 10/1 respectively, while the wonderful Tipp actress Kerry Condon has a better chance at 6/4.

The film is also up for Best Picture and is rated a 2/1 shot. Director Martin McDonagh is 10/1 to win that category and 10/11 to pick up his second Oscar for Best Original Screnplay for Banshees.

In all, Ireland received 16 nominations. Richard Baneham is 1/6 to pick up an award for his work on the visual efffects in James Cameron’s Avatar sequel. Northern Irish film An Irish Goodbye is also an odds-on favourite, Jonathan Redmond is 10/1 to win for his film editing on Elvis. Also 10/1 is Irish language picture The Quiet Girl for the top international film.

Drawing blanks on the range

PATRICK Reed throwing a tee at Rory McIlroy because the Down man wouldn’t greet him on the driving range at the Dubai Desert Classic was probably going to be the oddest golf story of the week.

But that didn’t factor in the WhatsApp video I received last Sunday showing footage from the day before at the Castle Golf Club in Dublin. It is widely available on social media and shows a Mercedes nestling in a greenside bunker. A man was apparently found behind the wheel on Saturday morning, cueing up plenty of “taking a driver from the bunker” comments.

Patrick Reed is well known for getting into a spot of bother in bunkers during tournaments. The most disliked golfer perhaps in the history of the professional game expressed surprise McIlroy blanked him. It might have something to do with having his lawyers hand a subpoena to McIlroy at his home on Christmas Eve.

The Bet

BOTH City and Arsenal are likely to score in tonight’s cup encounter, so we’ll take 2-1 to City at 8/1.

Adding the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles to set up a Super Bowl clash between the best two teams from the regular season will give you odds of 26/1.

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