25th January 2013
One of the two all-Premier League ties in the FA Cup fourth round will see league leaders Manchester United take on Fulham, with the match marked by Dimitar Berbatov’s return to Old Trafford. It remains to be seen whether the Bulgarian can help the Cottagers pull off a shock here.
While impressing in both Premier League and Champions Leagie, the Red Devils have experienced all sorts of problems on domestic Cup competitions. After crashing out of the Capitol One Cup at the hands of Chelsea, United looked to be on their way out of the FA Cup as well. However, Robin van Persie scored an injury time goal at Boleyn Ground to earn a replay against West Ham, before Wayne Rooney scored the winner to earn the Red Devils a clash with Fulham. Sir Alex Ferguson will certainly be demanding a response from his players following a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane, with his side having been on the back foot for much of the clash against Tottenham. The Red Devils flew to a training camp in Qatar immediately after the weekend’s match and they will be hoping the bonding trip helps them return to winning ways against Fulham. Sir Alex Ferguson is expected to make some changes to the starting line-up, but Jonny Evans and Ashley Young are definitely out.
Many expected Fulham to join the race for European places after they signed Dimitar Berbatov and few more exciting attacking players, but the Cottagers haven’t quite lived up to the billing. While the attacking department has been in full working order, even if the Bulgarian was often not at his best, the transition to a more attacking style of play has seen the team concede no less than 40 goals in 23 Premier League matches, which is a bit too much in my opinion. As Martin Jol struggles to find the right balance in the side, the Cottagers sit dangerously close to the relegation zone, so they might not be able to fully focus on their FA Cup clash against United. Although, a good performance at Old Trafford would certainly keep them in good stead for the home game against Fulham. Martin Jol is again tipped to field an under-strength side in the FA Cup, although there is every chance Dimitar Berbatov will be in the starting line-up. Kieran Richardson, Mahamadou Diarra and Kerim Frei are all ruled out.
Manchester United should have an easy job against weakened Fulham, even if Sir Alex Ferguson decides to rest some of his star players. With the Cottagers also dangerous up front and Berbatov keen to prove his former employers wrong, there is every chance we will see a high-scoring match at Old Trafford.
Verdict: Over 3.5 goals
Best Odds: 6/5
Bookmaker: William Hill