Stan Hey: 6-5 Against

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The Independent Football

So who wants it, the FA Cup, that is? Last season after a dozen years in which the Big Four had dominated the competition their hold was broken by Portsmouth. Was it a trick of the draw, and Barnsley beating Liverpool and Chelsea – or a sign that Premier League and Champions' League are greater priorities?

The Big Four dominate the betting again, just in case they fancy it – but my guess is that they will all use back-up players and only get serious if they busk into the fifth round. Similarly, with five points separating the bottom club from the 11th, 10 teams are concerned with survival. Yet the bookies have chalked in one of these, Manchester City, as 5th favourites, anticipating a transfer window mega-spree. But Everton, increasingly solid, appeal most – £10 win at 25-1 (Ladbrokes).

Over in the NFL, "Wildcard Weekend" signals the start of the play-offs. The Falcons are favoured to beat the Cardinals. But Atlanta are just 4-4 in road games. The Cards' veteran QB, Kurt Warner, loves spraying passes to his elite wide-receivers, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and they might just outscore the Falcons. £10 win, 23-20 Boylesports.

In the other three games, the rampant Chargers can bring down the curtain on the Colts' "Peyton Manning Show", £10 at 21-20 Paddy Power; while the Ravens (5-9 William Hill) and the Eagles (3-5 Skybet), both "power" teams, can crush Miami and Minnesota.

*Joe Lively was too lively early in the Welsh National and ran out of puff three furlongs out. But Exotic Dancer won the Lexus, and both Miami and San Diego landed bets. Happy New Year.

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