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Steven Beacom's Premier League predictions

THE FA Cup takes centre stage this weekend though the one Premier League match on Saturday is just as intriguing because it gives Manchester United the chance to go top of the table.

Sports Editor Steven Beacom picks out the most interesting cup ties and gives his predictions while Paddy Power provides the odds.

All games kick-off at 3pm on Saturday unless stated.

ASTON VILLA v BRIGHTON

Villa will really be fancying their chances of making a couple of Wembley appearances this season. Already in the Carling Cup final, Martin O’Neill’s men should make it into the last 16 of the FA Cup without too many concerns against Brighton. Incidentally, great to see Villa and Blackburn entering into the spirit of things with the Australian Open on at the moment. It’s not often you get a tennis score like 6-4 in football but the pair of them obliged on a crazy night at Villa Park.

Beacom Prediction: 3-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: Villa 1/5 Draw 5/1 Brighton 12/1

BOLTON v SHEFFIELD UNITED

I don’t imagine this will be one for the purist. I know new Bolton boss Owen Coyle likes his sides to play attractive football, but it may take a while for him to achieve that at the Reebok!

Beacom Prediction: 2-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: Bolton 4/5 Draw 12/5 Sheffield United 7/2

EVERTON v BIRMINGHAM

Much was made of Manchester City losing at Goodison Park last week, but I don’t think Everton were given the credit they deserved for an outstanding display. With all their injured players returning to fitness, Everton are looking like a dangerous outfit again. I’d be surprised if they didn’t beat Birmingham. Tim Cahill hasn’t scored for a while. He might tomorrow.

Beacom Prediction: 2-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: Everton 5/6 Draw 23/10 Birmingham 7/2

PORTSMOUTH v SUNDERLAND

These two sides will be pretty depressed entering this clash. Pompey have had a nightmare all season while Sunderland were embarrassed by Chelsea last week. SEVEN goals were conceded by the Black Cats at the Bridge. I imagine Steve Bruce will have told his defenders a few home truths and there will be a vast improvement this weekend.

Beacom Prediction: 1-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: Pompey 6/4 Draw 9/4 Sunderland 7/4

PRESTON v CHELSEA |(Saturday 12.45pm)

On paper this is one of those cracking Cup ties, but on grass if Sir Alex Ferguson can’t beat Chelsea, what hope has his son Darren? Chelsea won’t score seven like they did against Fergie’s ‘other son’ Steve Bruce, but they’ll still cruise to victory.

Beacom Prediction: 1-3

PADDY POWER ODDS: Preston 9/1 Draw 4/1 Chelsea 2/7

READING v BURNLEY |(Saturday 12.45pm)

Well, Reading beat Liverpool in the last round, so overcoming Burnley should be easy enough. It doesn’t always work out like that, but even though Reading are useless in the Championship, I’ve a hunch they will keep their Cup run going. Burnley are awful away from home and Reading might just march on.

Beacom Prediction: 2-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: Reading 15/8 Draw 9/4 Burnley 7/5

SPURS v LEEDS |(Saturday 5.15pm)

When Tottenham saw the Liverpool team-sheet on Wednesday night, they should have been licking their lips, thinking let’s go out there, strut our stuff and show that we truly are a top four side. They didn’t and, on the evidence of Anfield, they aren’t. Jermain Defoe is having a fine season but I thought he was poor in midweek, in many respects bullied out of the game by Liverpool’s strong defence.

Mind you, he wasn’t the only one. Harry Redknapp will demand a response tomorrow night. He should get it, though his team will still find Leeds United a tough nut to crack. The Yorkshire outfit were superb in knocking Manchester United out in the last round and would love another Premier League scalp. I don’t think they’ll get it. A replay is their best hope, but my tip is for Spurs to make it through.

Beacom Prediction: 3-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: Spurs 3/10 Draw 4/1 Leeds 9/1

STOKE v ARSENAL |(Sunday 1.30pm)

Confidence will be oozing out of the Gunners now that they are top of the league. I’m not sure they will stay there. Cesc Fabregas is so vital to them, I’d be surprised if Arsene Wenger risks him in this clash. Stoke will fly in with tackles and make it as rough and tough as possible. I don’t knock it, that’s playing to their strengths and good luck to them. Arsenal are all about football but will be happy to take a draw at the Britannia and win the replay.

Beacom Prediction: 1-1

PADDY POWER ODDS: Stoke 4/1 Draw 5/2 Arsenal 7/10

SCUNTHORPE v MAN CITY (Sunday 4pm)

Roberto Mancini will get a quick education about FA Cup football at Scunthorpe. Tight little ground with the fans on top of you and players like Northern Ireland’s Grant McCann playing for their lives. By the way can you name THREE England captains who have played for Scunthorpe? (answer below). They could do with them on Sunday, because City’s class should tell.

Just for the record ahead of next week’s Carling Cup semi-final, I’m backing Manchester United to hammer Hull in the only Premier League game of the weekend. United 4-1 with Rooney to score.

Answer: Kevin Keegan, Ray Clemence and Ian Botham.

Beacom Prediction: 1-3

PADDY POWER ODDS: Scunthorpe 7/1 Draw 10/3 City 2/5

Belfast Telegraph