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Michael Taylor 13th Feb 2009 - 19:39

Martinez magic will leave Fulham dazzled

Roberto Martinez was never a world beater in his playing days for Wigan or Swansea yet, as the Swans' manager, it seems the Spaniard is heading for the very top.

The 35-year-old has been spectacular in his first two years of management transforming Wales' second city into a haven for free-flowing, stylish football while still managing to achieve impressive results each and every week.

What's more he has done it on a budget more appropriate to the very lowest echelons of the game and there is no better testament to this than the signing of £25,000 hit-man Jason Scotland - a previously unheard of striker plying his trade for St Johnstone.

Scotland tore apart Coca-Cola League One last season, finishing with 29 goals in all competitions, as Swansea dominated a competitive division that included fallen giants Leeds United and Nottingham Forest.

Now, with the FA Cup reaching the business end of things, both Martinez and Scotland have the perfect opportunity to show what they're capable of against Roy Hodgson's Premier League Fulham - a game shown live on ITV1.

The Swans somewhat surprisingly head into the game at the Liberty Stadium as 11/8 favourites despite their opponent's mid-table Premier League status - the Cottagers are 15/8 and a draw is 12/5.

The fact that Swansea are favourites may be seen as a bit shocking given they trail Fulham in status, league position and, most importantly, wealth but under Martinez's management it is virtually impossible to back anything other than a home win.

Fulham's case is not buoyed by their own terrible away form as they have mustered up no victories and just three goals away from Craven Cottage in the Premier League all season and it is hard to see them improving on that in Wales.

It all points towards another happy day for Martinez; however it might not be such a joyous occasion for Jason Scotland as he will no doubt be a marked man by one of the most stringent defences around.

Scotland is a 6/1 shot to score the first goal of the game which looks a little short unless Swansea are given a penalty, but better value can be found with the 8/1 about on loan midfielder Jordi Gomez...another shrewd loan signing by Martinez from Espanyol.

Gomez has managed nine goals in total so far this season and may be given the time and space to add to his tally if Scotland is afforded the respect he deserves from the Cottagers defence.

From what you have already read it may appear that Fulham are without hope but this is certainly not the case!

Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora have the ability to create chances all day and will give the likes of Garry Monk and Angel Rangel a challenge they are not used to in the lower league, while Simon Davies and Danny Murphy provide the experience that Swansea may be missing.

But as said before you just cannot back against a Swansea win given their superb form and, although it should be close, I can see the home side snatching it by the odd goal - making the 11/2 about 1-0 and 9/1 about 2-1 look appealing.

With a wide range of betting markets available (38 in total) on this game we have all aspects of the game covered and the one price that stands out for me is the 11/8 about zero goals being scored in the first half.

In a game with so much riding on it neither team will want to give anything away too early and while the game should be great on the eye, we may have to wait until the second half for the goals to come.

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