Newcastle v Sunderland
Games are starting to run out for Sunderland. Their tough run started against Manchester United before they had to visit Stamford Bridge and both those games ended in defeat. Now they face an old enemy in a game they dare not lose. After that, it's Everton. Say what you want about Paolo Di Canio, but he's clearly a man that loves a challenge.
This derby is massive. They're huge games anyway, but Newcastle know a win means they'll be safe for another season in the Premier League. Not only that, they can make a big contribution to relegating their biggest local rivals which adds even more incentive to the affair.
I can see this being an intense game, chiefly because neither team will want to lose it. Newcastle are the better team, but they know a defeat means Sunderland move within two points of them and there are enough games left for the Magpies to be overhauled should Di Canio's men pluck some momentum from somewhere.
For that reason I'm going to go for a low scoring draw. Sunderland simply can't score goals; the only man that does it for them is Steven Fletcher and he's injured. Danny Graham, who hasn't scored a single goal since signing from Swansea faces a late fitness test. That potentially just leaves Connor Wickham, the big Number 9 who has hardly played since he signed for the Black Cats. He has just one league goal to his name in a Sunderland shirt.
But not only that, Newcastle aren't in incredible form themselves. They've just been knocked out of the Europa League (although admittedly to a good Benfica side) and have lost two of their last three league games. A five point cushion from the drop zone is nowhere near enough to be called comfortable at this stage of the season, and Alan Pardew will be making his players very aware of what's needed here. A defeat in a derby a few days after being knocked out of European competition could be disastrous for confidence.
Although we're getting to the stage where draws probably aren't enough for Sunderland, I can see this being 1-1 or 0-0, two scores which are currently trading at 11.521/2 and 7.613/2 respectively. The draw may sound underwhelming to Di Canio, but Sunderland need points desperately and a point against Newcastle at St James' Park could actually be a great platform from which to build for the new manager. North east football fans of the red and white persuasion will be biting their nails he can get them firing.
Back 0-0 in the Correct Score market at 11.521/2
Back 1-1 in the Correct Score market at 7.613/2
Chelsea v Manchester City
With a position in next year's Champions League assured and no other competition to compete in, this FA Cup semi-final against Rafa Benitez's Chelsea gains even more significance for Roberto Mancini and his Man City players. They brushed Barnsley aside in the sixth round in what was essentially a training run for them and know they'll be pushed far harder against a team who have serious designs on winning the trophy.
Chelsea's sixth round tie against Manchester United certainly wasn't a training run as they needed a replay to get past the country's best league side. That replay was a cagey one, especially in the first half and I can see this game displaying many of the same characteristics. The worst time to lose in the FA Cup is in the semi-final, and these two teams will know that.
Games of high stakes do tend to be low-scoring, tight affairs for the most part and I certainly don't think this one will be a goal fest. Man City are favourites according to the market and the thing that tips it in City's favour for me is that this is the only thing they've got to go after and so I think their desire will see them nick it.
Back Draw/City in the Half Time/Full Time market at 6.05/1