Benfica were worth laying last time I spoke, 2-2 final score in a great match. United continued their dominance over Liverpool, Arsenal still struggle to beat the top 2 consistently, Ath Madrid and Barca cruised in the Primera.

Travels have finished now. Uncle duty on hold for a short while. Back to business.

630pm – Steaua Bucharest v Celtic – a club friendly and the odds are illiquid as I write. One to gloss over I suspect. This might be a match where John Lennon tries out some European tactics what with the Champions League fixtures looming. Pure guess work on my part of course, but I would consider a defensive display for Celtic? What other reason would they be holding a rather random mid week friendly? This is being held in Marbella and its artificial training pitch so added reasons to swerve this like you would a date with Edwina Currie.

745pm – Birmingham v Leeds – 2.38 home – an FA Cup match. 2 championship sides and as you know, to make our lives easier, it’s better to focus on matches where there is a gap in the leagues. Brum have been tight in their last 3 matches 0-1 loss, 1-1, 1-1. One of the 1-1’s was against Leeds in the FA Cup.

Brum have scored 2-2-3-2-2-0 at home recently in all competitions.

Leeds have only drawn 1 of their last 15, and you know who that was against , and in which competition?

Only 1 win in last 5 was a 1-0.

Only 1 win in last 10 away so Leeds do not travel well. Leeds have not won in their last 6 FA Cup matches. Only recent away defeat was a 1-0 to Arsenal .

Tough to call indeed. Form would favour a lay of Leeds based on really poor overall away form, and not winning in last 6 in FA Cup. But hey this is the FA Cup so don’t get carried away!

745pm – Bournemouth v Wigan – 2.62 away – very peculiar odds here for this FA Cup clash. You would have expected Wigan to be resounding favs, so therein lies a concern re team news and desire for an FA Cup run.

7th in league 1 v 17th in the Premiership.

Bournemouth are unbeaten in their last 18 in all competitions, drawing their last 3.

A 1-1 draw away at Wigan saw Bournemouth take the lead.

Only 2 defeats at home in 22 matches sees Bournemouth flying, one of those defeats was a friendly! Both defeats were 1-2.

Bournemouth have not really played any premiership opponents in the FA Cup. Their record at home is pretty good though but remember the quality of opponents as compared with Prem.

Only 2 wins in 13 for Wigan in all competitions and Premiership survival a must . Only 1 away draw in 20 for Wigan came last match against Fulham.

Wigan are generally poor in the FA Cup which suggests this is not prioritised. A ” nice if we win” feel for Wigan.

Wigan have been a bit more competitive in the Cup away.

Logic points to Premiership fitness above League 1. Form suggests Bournemouth at home are formidable. Cup form suggests Wigan have priorities lying elsewhere. Now I guess we understand the skewed odds? Wigan tend to avoid draws away ( bar Fulham last time out ) – is this an angle in?

745pm – Stoke v C Palace – 1.69 – I think I know what’s happened to Stoke. Tony Pulis got a “Football tactics for Dummies” book for Christmas and has been implementing the chapter on “getting shit loads of goals in your matches – without you needing to score all of them”.

Prior to Christmas it was typical Stoke and their 1-0’s, 1-1’s, 0-0. Come Boxing day and we see 3-1, 3-3, 3-0 ,0-0, 0-4! To be fair, the last 2 drubbings were via City and Chelsea.

The standout there was a 0-0 v Palace.

Only 1 defeat for Stoke at home in 19. The last 2 teams to beat Stoke at home were Valencia and Chelsea!

Only Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea have beaten Stoke in the FA Cup since Jan 2010.

Since 2006 at home, only Brum have beaten Stoke at home in the Cup.They are undefeated in the Cup in their last 8 matches.

Only 2 wins in last 11 for Palace, BUT only 3 defeats, all away. A case of Draw-itis at the moment.  No win in 5 in the Cup for Palace.  Only 1 win in last 10 away for Palace and 3 consecutive away losses in the FA Cup.

Looks like Stoke will not lose today doesn’t it? The inability of Palace to score at home suggests they should find it doubly so at Fortress Stoke. A correct score to nil? 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 saver perhaps?

With Stoke all over the shop goals wise, it is tough to discern overs or unders.

745pm – Sunderland v Bolton – 1.67 home – 2-2 last time these 2 met saw Bolton take a 2-0 lead and therein is the problem. Sunderland are the same odds as Stoke and at home. An inability to keep goal concessions down to even 1 should come back to bite Bolton.

3 wins in last 4 for Sunderland at home, losing lately to Chelsea and Spurs, 2 very solid sides this season.

Sunderland have only been beaten by Everton in last 7 FA Cup matches. Only 2 wins in last 9 for Bolton, and 2 consecutive score draws , one against Sunderland.

Only 2 wins in 14 away in all competitions, both 1-2 wins.A run of 12 consecutive matches with Bolton scoring and conceding ended with a 1-0 loss last time out.

Spurs( twice) and Stoke the only recent sides to Beat Bolton in the Cup, but do gain some perspective re different times ( Premiership – better class of player etc).

2-2-2-2-1-2 scored by Bolton in recent Fa Cup matches.

The first match suggests advantage Sunderland, but then can be read in any number of ways – it could suggest vulnerability from Sunderland who conceded 2 goals.

Bolton might get on the scoresheet today. I would perhaps look to both sides scoring? Bolton have a decent recent goalscoring record in recent FA Cup matches – nearly 2 a game in last 6.

8pm – West Brom v QPR – 1.83 home 78th and 90th minute goals in the 1st FA Cup meeting signals what Arry has done at the Hoops. 0-1, 1-1, 0-0 under the twitcher. More of the same likely tonight?

No win in 4 now for West Brom.

QPR in the cup without Arry were defensive 1-0 or 1-1 in last 5 cup matches.

Both sides have scored and conceded in 5 of West Brom’s last 6 cup matches.

Contrasting set ups in the Cup. Who will out? Tough to call. QPR a lot more solid in defence under Redknapp, but must prioritise staying up.

Goal trends totally incongruous .The late goals of the first match suggests odds on is a tad short for West BRom.

8pm – Inter v Bologna – 1.55 home – Routine win against Pescara halted a rather poor pre Xmas Inter run. 11 unbeaten at home in all competitions for Inter.

Only 4 defeats in last 26 in the Cup. Inter are unbeaten in this competition since 2004 – now that is a stat, ladies and gentlemen!10 wins and a 1-1 draw in last 11 ( draw goal game in 85th min).

2 defeats in last 3 for Bologna. Only 2 draws in last 15 away. 6 1-0 defeats in those 15 might suggest that luck is not on Bologna’s side of late. Wins have been 1-2 or 2-3 and last 2 wins have come away to Napoli.  Bologna beat Napoli recently in the Cup 1-2 away care of a 90th minute goal. Only 1 defeat in last 9 in the Cup ( in 90 minutes) was funnily enough a 2-1 loss to Napoli.

Both teams have scored in 6 of last 7 Cup matches for Bologna.

This match is all about the formidable Inter cup record at home. Use it. If Bologna score first, back Inter or lay Bologna. Remember though that an unbeaten record does not mean the home side will win – they could draw. Is this enough to conveniently sweep aside Inter’s pre Xmas unflattering form?

8pm – Real Madrid v Valencia – 1.33 home – the state Real are in, I wouldn’t back them with George Osbourne’s millions. Real have only won 2 of their last 6. A case of Special Needs not Special One. Since November 2011 at home, on Barcelona have beaten Real in all competitions. That perhaps explains the ultra short odds considering their recent form.

But layers, Real were 1.55 away to osasuna at the weekend and drew 0-0, so don’t be put off the prices. Real have only failed to score 2 minimum in 1 of last 19 at home.

Again at home Real are solid in the Cup, 3 recent defeats have come away from home.

9 wins and a 1-2 loss to Barca in last 10 at home for Real in the Cup.

Valencia seem to be playing against historical strengths rather than recent form today.

7 wins in last 8 for Valencia in all competitions sees them in fine fettle.

4 consecutive away wins too, and 3 clean sheets offers something to grasp this evening.

Sevilla and Barca the last 2 sides to beat Valencia in the Cup. 3 away wins in last 4 with clean sheets. The only aberration a 2-0 loss to Barca.

This is all about historical form, then , for those favouring Real. Yes they missed the massive winker ( I think that’s how you spell it), Ronaldo against Osasuna.

Real are imperious at home regardless and only Barca seem to be able to beat them in Madrid. This is what Valencia are facing.

valencia are in good form in all competitions, and away in the cup. Markedly though, it is Barca who interrupted a clean sheet win sequence away for Valencia in the cup.

Ultra speculative? Back the 0-0 and hope Valencia bring that cleansheetitis with them. Last 2 Primera matches were 0-0 and 1-1 so there is hope there I suppose. Laying Real at 1.33 is not to be discouraged given their poor recent form. Ronaldo should be back though and he is a massive difference of course.


STANDOUT STATS OF THE DAY – Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia are unbeaten at home since 2004. Now, as with the Everton standout stat, look either for this to be smashed today ( value /speculative approach), or use the stat if, say, Bologna are 0-1 up

Since November 2011, only Barcelona have beaten Real Madrid at home.

Only 1 defeat at home for Stoke in 19 matches. Only 2 teams to beat Stoke at home recently were Chelsea and Valencia

BET/TRADE OF THE DAY – there is nothing as strong as Iraq against Yemen today at all. The Cup matches are very tough. I like the look of Stoke today at home against Palace. Their home record is imperious. They stand out.

Inter Milan at home as I say in the stat of the day -a match to really check out in play -get your prayer mats out and hope for a 0-2 Bologna at halftime, then CHAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGEEEEEE!