THERE were no shocks in the Carling Cup last night and it could be the same again as six sides chase the last three quarter-finals slots.

Arsenal, Aston Villa and West Ham are favourites to progress and the first two can certainly be backed with a degree of confidence.

The Gunners travel to Newcastle with Arsene Wenger promising fans he'll do everything possible to end a five-year trophy drought. That could mean playing a stronger side than usual and the likes of Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela, Kieran Gibbs and Laurent Koscielny are all in line to start.

For Newcastle survival is the priority and even though they beat Chelsea in the previous round gaffer Chris Hughton is set to bring players such as Tamas Kadar, Shane Ferguson and Haris Vuckic.

If Arsenal play like they did at Manchester City on Sunday there will be only one result and the away pays a best 1-1 at Coral. Newcastle are 3-1 with Chandler.

Aston Villa haven't really got going under Gerard Houllier and are stuck in mid-table. However, they are unbeaten at home and a win against Burnley is necessary for the Frenchman as he tries to win fans' favour.

Villa have named a strong squad but captain Stilian Petrov, striker Gabriel Agbonlahor and defender Luke Young are all injured.

Burnley could be shellshocked after their 4-0 home bashing by Reading at the weekend and I fancy Villa at 8-15 with William Hill and bet365.

The final tie is tougher to call with EPL rivals West Ham and Stoke clashing at Upton Park. The Hammers remain bottom of the table and a cup run would be a nice distraction for Avramm Grant who took Portsmouth to Wembley last season and also relegation.

Grant is putting out a strong side while Stoke boss Tony Pulis will make some changes. Back West Ham at 13-10 with William Hill.

Also take both teams to score at Upton Park. In fact consider the bet in all three games. Last night out of 10 sides only Swansea failed to net so it's a bet that's been trapping in this tournament.


  • Bendtner to score first (15-2, Betfred)


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