TACKLING THE £2,000,000 MILLIONAIRE
This week’s Millionaire is top heavy with League Cup ties and a smattering of important Championship games.
Jose Mourinho certainly won’t be relishing a trip to the Potteries whilst Eddie Howe will hope a similar performance to their earlier visit to Anfield sees Bournemouth through against Liverpool on this occasion.
Remember that just a £2 minimum stake gives you a chance at the lottery-sized £2m jackpot.
Let’s get to it…
Hull v Leicester
Just two losses from 16 games in all competitions this season has seen Steve Bruce’s stock as Hull manager rise again.
The Tigers have been playing some sparkling stuff this season and Swansea’s Garry Monk will attest that this Premier League team-in-waiting are going to be no pushovers for a Leicester side enjoying a renaissance under Claudio Ranieri.
Both teams enjoy taking the game to their opposition and playing on the front foot at all times. Jamie Vardy in particular has excelled in the new dynamic at the King Power Stadium.
The more industrial side of the game could be in evidence here as both go for broke in a tie that, if won, will place the victors in the quarter finals of a competition that either will feel they have a chance of winning.
Traditionally a low scoring affair, wins between the sides have been evenly spread.
If Riyad Mahrez is allowed to play, he’ll author another for the visitors. Stop him and you stop Leicester.
This is one that will go all the way. 0-0 or 1-1 after 90 minutes.
Stoke v Chelsea
If there’s one place that the Blues would not want to travel to in the midst of a crisis, it is to the Britannia Stadium.
Mark Hughes’ Stoke side have proved time and again that they are no respecter of reputations and the extra edge is added with this game being against one of the Welshman’s old sides.
Under normal circumstances the League Cup might be seen as the least of Jose Mourinho’s priorities, but given just how badly Chelsea are performing at present, a win here could kick-start the west Londoner’s miserable campaign.
Previous fixtures between the two would give the Portuguese every hope that a win will be forthcoming.
In the 16 games stretching back to 2008, Stoke have won just once (3-2) and it was also the only game where the Potters have scored two or mor.
On 11 occasions, Chelsea have stood firm and ensured Stoke haven’t managed to penetrate their back line, and the four remaining fixtures have seen Stoke score just one goal.
It’s unlikely to be pretty but the Blues will celebrate the win here as much as any from either of Mourinho’s reigns. 0-1 or 0-2 for your coupon and lift off for Chelsea.
Liverpool v Bournemouth
The third home game in a row for Jurgen Klopp and one in which a victory can take him nearer to a Wembley return.
You’d imagine that a decent cup run would be high on the German’s agenda given the associated confidence that the same can bring.
The task ahead for the normal one has already been brought into sharp focus by some average performances from his staff and Bournemouth won’t just turn up for this one as the whipping boys. Far from it.
The sense of injustice that Eddie Howe’s team feel from their first visit here earlier on in the season still rankles.
On that occasion, two decisions by the officials denied the Cherries what would’ve been a well deserved point.
With nothing really to lose in this one Bournemouth can play without pressure and to that end, we should witness a decent game of pass and move football.
The same will be the visitors’ undoing however, Klopp using nous to pick off the Cherries when in the ascendency.
I’d expect Bournemouth to score because despite some towering performances from Mamadou Sakho, the Liverpool back line still creaks under pressure.
But, with players coming back into contention and competition for places hotting up, the Reds will ensure one of those special Anfield nights.
2-1 or 3-1 are my selections.
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Southampton v Aston Villa
Villa manager Tim Sherwood was already on borrowed time and after another disappointing result at the weekend, it appeared that they had seen enough.
Just one win in the Premier League has seen that the Villains are already seven points adrift of Chelsea who only occupy 15th place themselves at this juncture.
A team that were spectacular under the ex-Tottenham man in getting to the F A Cup Final last season have been anything but since their failure in that big game.
Southampton hit six in the last round at MK Dons, beaten both Chelsea and Swansea 3-1 and drawn 2-2 against an impressive Leicester in the lead up to this one.
Although Ronald Koeman’s men can be a little lax at the back themselves, with Saido Mane, Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle in good form, this is a fixture that should see an easy passage into the last 16.
Unlike Saints, Villa’s big names just haven’t performed at all during this campaign and whatever the manager has tried, it hasn’t worked.
An AOH result is almost a given in this one.
Leeds v Blackburn
Turmoil once again reigns at Elland Road with owner Massimo Cellino banned from running the football club on the same day that he sacked manager Uwe Rosler and brought in Steve Evans, a manager synonymous with wearing a sombrero and beach shorts the last time he visited the club, albeit as an opposition manager.
But this is no holiday for the ex-Rotherham man, his side’s deficiencies laid bare in a dismal 1-1 draw against bottom club Bolton Wanderers at the weekend.
Luckily for Evans, Blackburn have endured a similarly tricky start to the campaign and are just one point behind their hosts in the league.
Both have only managed to score more than one goal on three occasions in all competitions this season and supporters looking for some respite from the boredom beware, this could be a real snoozefest.
Evans needs to stop clowning around if he wants to be taken seriously and a defeat here won’t help his cause.
0-0 and 1-1 after 90 minutes or, if you want to take a punt on a winner before extra-time, Blackburn 0-1 for your coupon. Yawn….
Brentford v QPR
A west London derby to finish matters this week, Griffin Park the short hop from QPR’s Loftus Road ground.
Both teams sit in mid-table and a fair distance off of the top two or three teams, but within a couple of wins of the play off positions.
Chris Ramsey’s QPR side have blown hot and cold all season but a super win over MK Dons and the imminent return of Charlie Austin have given the Superhoops something to cheer.
With player such as Austin and Rob Green in their ranks, QPR have the personnel to be challenging in the upper echelons. A win here will engender the confidence required to push on up the table.
Brentford also enjoyed a 3-0 win last time out, the win ensuring that Charlton sacked their manager Guy Luzon after a disappointing start to the campaign.
Another derby win for Lee Carsley’s side will, again, provide some impetus.
Brentford and QPR play good, attractive football and perhaps the more robust side of the game needs to be addressed.
How else do you explain why two decent passing sides sit so low in the table.
Fortune certainly favours the visitors. You have to go back 50 years to August 1965 to find the last time that a Brentford side came out on top against their neighbours.
A game for the purist with goals guaranteed. I’ll take 1-2 or 2-3 as my last selections this week.