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Martin Laurence’s Pick 8 Preview

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Leicester vs Sheffield United – 1/X

With realistic ambitions of a play-off finish, there’s not much chance of Sheffield United naming a full strength line-up on Friday night, let alone their hosts. Claude Puel will, however, view the FA Cup as a winnable competition for his Foxes side and could bring Riyad Mahrez in from the cold and name an attacking XI for the visit of the Blades. Chris Wilder’s side secured a much needed win last weekend but Leicester will be keen to bounce back from a heavy defeat at Manchester City and should do so here.

Sheffield Wednesday vs Swansea – 2

A return to his former stomping ground for Carlos Carvalhal, few Owls fans would have predicted the impact their old boss would have at Swansea having hit problems under the Portuguese this season. Jos Luhukay has made a decent start as his replacement, with an excellent win over Derby in midweek, but that extra game may take its toll on the legs of the home side and I’d expect the visitors to build even more confidence, stretching their unbeaten run to ten with a win at Hillsborough.

West Brom vs Southampton – 1/X/2

While both of these sides will be far more concerned with a Premier League relegation battle, Alan Pardew desperately needs a win against one of his former employers to boost morale amongst his troops. Seven points adrift of safety in the top-flight, while they may not need more games ahead of the end of the season, losing has become a habit and that needs to change regardless of the competition. Southampton are in better form though, despite a poor performance against Liverpool last time out, so this is too hard to call.

Brighton vs Coventry – 1/2

The lowest ranked team left in the competition, Coventry will be hoping to secure an upset against a Brighton side that is likely to make a number of changes. Chris Hughton showed where his priorities lie with a weakened line-up in the previous round and Boro and is certain to do the same again, so this could be a closer game than many expect. The Seagulls won’t want a replay, that’s for sure, but this could be a banana skin despite their lower league oppositions poor run of form of late.

Schalke vs Hoffenheim – 1/X

Two sides whose hopes of a top four finish have been dashed since the turn of the year, defeat for either would be a huge blow to that particular pursuit. Hoffenheim ended a winless run last time out but away from home they have been dismal, with just two wins in 11. Schalke, meanwhile, have lost just two of 11 at home, but their drop off since the turn of the year could result in a stalemate on Saturday.

Huddersfield vs Manchester United – 2

David Wagner’s men will face a United side that are vengeful on two counts this weekend, first for the defeat in this fixture earlier in the season and then from their loss to Newcastle last time out. The Terriers, meanwhile, secured a huge win against Bournemouth and are another side distracted by a fraught relegation battle. Mourinho knows this is his best shot at silverware by a distance and the fans will demand a big improvement, so this should be a comfortable away win.

Malaga vs Valencia – 2

Speaking of comfortable away wins, Valencia will be confident of retaining third spot for at least another week when they face a Malaga side sinking without a trace. La Liga’s bottom club are seven points from safety having picked up just 13 points in 23 games and while Los Che have struggled away from home recently, with four defeats in five, this should be their easiest trip of the season, even if the margin of victory is narrow.

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