You may or may not believe that the magic of the cup is just a fantasy these days (Manchester City’s team selection yesterday would suggest it is), but for some sides the FA Cup represents their one and only chance of glory this term.
For the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Crystal Palace there could be redemption, for Watford and West Ham a sense of confirmation, and for the likes of Reading jubilation, should they be able to life the famous trophy on the Wembley balcony.
The quarter final draw may have been made but there are still fifth round matters to contend with. Arsenal and Hull will have to do battle once again after they could only reach a 0-0 stalemate despite the Gunners’ dominance. The replay will have been the last thing Arsene Wenger wanted with a season-defining schedule including key Champions and Premier League fixtures upcoming, but for Steve Bruce his side now have an excellent chance of progressing assuming that Wenger makes personnel changes for the replay.
Elsewhere there were comfortable wins for Watford and Everton over Leeds and Bournemouth respectively, while West Brom joined the list of Premier League casualties after crashing to a 1-3 defeat at Reading.
On Sunday there was a surprise win for Crystal Palace against a near full-strength Spurs, while 5-1 victories for Chelsea and West Ham against a weak Man City and Blackburn Rovers respectively asserted their dominance.
The draw for the quarter finals took place on Sunday evening and appears as follows:
- Everton v Chelsea
- Reading v Crystal Palace
- Arsenal/Hull v Watford
- Man United/Shrewsbury v West Ham
Blue is the Colour
The tie of the round will surely take place at Goodison Park, where a rampant Chelsea will fancy their chances of progressing to the last four and at least achieving some kind of consolatory glory despite a woeful campaign.
Everton will take some beating of course, but the fact that they have been poor at home in the league this term – they’ve lost more matches than they have won on Merseyside – and that the Blues have only tasted defeat once under Guus Hiddink gives the Londoners the edge. Available at 3/1 to win the whole competition, they look the soundest investment here.
Arsenal are next in the market from 7/2, and we would suggest that given their distractions elsewhere this price is far too short despite their proud history in the FA Cup. Hull will put up a great fight at home in their fifth round replay, and Watford will prove no pushovers should they overcome the Tigers. The obstacles are mounting up for Wenger’s side, and so they are easy to oppose here.
Hammer Blow for Van Gaal
One side that will have caught the eye of each way punters is West Ham, who boast the kind of quality to win one-off matches against almost anyone. In Dimitri Payet, they surely can call on one of European football’s most in-form stars.
A probable last eight clash at Old Trafford would have been a nightmare scenario a few years ago, but not anymore. Manchester United are hard to beat at home still, but there is just something a little bit special about this West Ham side. Available from 10/1, they could be worth an each way poke.
And then there’s Crystal Palace. Teams who are struggling in the league have a habit of doing well in the FA Cup (see Aston Villa last year and Wigan in 2013), and while Alan Pardew’s men are in no danger in the Premier League they certainly aren’t pulling up any trees. At 8/1, they could be the dark horses here.