Stoke City set for exciting FA Cup battle against Blackburn Rovers
This tasty fifth round FA Cup tie pits solid Premier League side Stoke City, 13/10 with Coral to win over 90 minutes, against robust Championship club Blackburn Rovers.
Rovers enjoy home advantage at Ewood Park, where they have triumphed on each of their last three outings, which includes a 3-1 cup drubbing of 10-man Swansea City. So back Blackburn at 8/5 to steal another top tier scalp, or 9/4 to force a draw.
In a competition that has provided a host of magical underdog moments and giant-killings so far this campaign, the Potters’ Premier League status is no guarantee of success.
Mark Hughes, who returns to one of his former clubs, will have to work hard to breach a resilient Rovers rearguard and the ex-Blackburn boss and player’s best form of defence could be attack.
Stoke were smashed 4-1 at another of Hughes’ former stomping grounds, as Manchester City demolished the Midlands men at the Etihad midweek. The unusually porous Potters’ backline woes stem from the absence of solid skipper Ryan Shawcross and fellow defenders Marc Wilson and Erik Pieters.
This could present Rovers with a rare opportunity to topple two top tier sides in a row, as the Lancashire club boast a pair of truly potent poachers.
Premier League target Jordan Rhodes, who was on target last time out in the Championship, is 7/4 to score anytime or 6/1 to draw first blood. Meanwhile, prolific partner and much sough-after striker Rudy Gestede, who helped sink the Swans, is also 7/4 in the anytime market or a princely punt at 9/1 to bag a brace or better.
Hughes may be missing the craft of brilliant but injured Bojan Krkic, who grabbed a goal against Stoke in the two teams’ pre-season friendly, but recent hat-trick Jon Walters could return and is 6/1 to close the scoring.
Peter Crouch could also cause problems at set pieces and has netted twice in his last two games, making him 6/1 to open the floodgates.
In other team news for the travelling Britannia boys, inconsistent Marko Arnautovic may miss out due to a niggling foot injury, and highly-rated young stopper Jack Butland could retain his cup starting spot unless Hughes plays it safe by plumping for Asmir Begovic.
Stoke are undefeated in their last seven battles with Blackburn, making them a potentially more prudent bet. However, the unpredictability of the FA Cup means fortune favours the brave, so back both teams at 14/1 to score in both halves.