City can edge out Stoke at the Britannia

A REPEAT of the 2011 final kicks-off tomorrow’s FA Cup fourth round action when Manchester City travel to the lively Britannia Stadium.

Roberto Mancini closed the gap at the top of the Premier League to five points last weekend and he’ll be keen to build on a run of five successive victories across all competitions. We tipped up City to lift the trophy in May at 11/2 with Blue Square Bet a few weeks ago. They are now priced at 9/2 and I don’t see any reason to desert them.

Stoke boasted the best league defence until the turn of the year and now it’s City who arrive on the back of four clean sheets. Compared to the Potters’ run of one win in 10 matches, it is clear to see why the visitors are strongly fancied to progress.

One of those defeats came at the Etihad, but the Staffordshire side are a different beast at home. They ran City close in the final two years ago, yet ultimately fell short and I fancy the same outcome again, which can be backed at 4/5 with Coral. Expect Mancini to keep it tight, so spread bettors are advised to sell total goals at 2.6 with Sporting Index.

Before then Aston Villa will be desperate to avoid a second disastrous result in a week when they head to London to take on Millwall tonight.

The last time these two clubs faced each other in this competition was 27 years ago, when the Lions went through thanks to a 1-0 win after the first tie had ended 1-1 at Villa Park.

Paul Lambert failed to inspire a comeback against Bradford in the Capital One Cup and the confidence visibly drained from their young side when the equaliser went in. Expect Kenny Jackett to have been working on set-pieces during the build-up after witnessing the Bantams score three of their four goals against Villa from corners.

With relegation a genuine concern for Lambert’s men, additional matches won’t be high on their wish list with a small squad and their midweek exertions likely to affect their chances. Away from Birmingham it’s four games without a win for Villa and I’m happy to tip up Millwall at 7/5 with Blue Square Bet.

Manchester United needed two attempts to get past West Ham, but I don’t expect them to have the same issue with a struggling Fulham side. The Cottagers are notoriously bad travellers and they head to Old Trafford knowing that United have won nine straight domestic home games.

Martin Jol’s side have lost half of their away fixtures in the league this season and that includes a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford.

In United’s past six home league games they have racked up 15 goals, while they notched 18 in their previous six meetings with Fulham.

Sir Alex Ferguson will be keen to avoid another cup replay, so expect him to send out a strong starting XI to get the job done early and I’m happy to take United with the -1.5 Asian handicap at 2.0 with Samvo.

■ Pointers…

Manchester City at 4/5 with Coral
Sell total goals (Stoke v Man City) at 2.3 with Sporting Index
Millwall at 7/4 with Blue Square Bet
Manchester United with -1.5 Asian handicap at 2.0 with Samvo