The teams involved in the 5th round of the FA Cup will know that they are just 180 minutes of action away from a date at Wembley Stadium. Something that should help to focus the minds of anybody who accuses this, the oldest club cup competition in the world, of lacking razzmatazz and worth these days.
This year the tournament has a wonderfully eclectic feel to it, with five of the Premier League’s big hitters in Manchesters United and City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea going up against the likes of non-league outfits Lincoln City and Sutton United. The stage is set for a giant-killing of King Kong proportions.
With the big boys taking this opportunity to rest some of their key players, there is a chance here for an unlikely set of heroes to emerge. Burnley, almost free from the fear of relegation from the top flight of English football, can throw themselves into a cup run with gusto, while Championship outfits such as Fulham really have nothing to lose.
For punters, this FA Cup is packed with possibilities. This betting preview will hopefully guide you through the best tips and the most effective strategy for leveraging some handsome profit!
The main theme of the 5th round is that many of the so-called lesser teams have been handed chances to enjoy a day out in the bigger fish’s ponds. There’s Burnley vs Lincoln and Middlesbrough vs Oxford, where the underdogs have absolutely nothing to lose. Indeed, if they can force a replay they’ll be quids in, thanks to the gate money and TV revenue they would accrue.
Of course, not all of the Premier League’s leading lights have the luxury of home advantage; there’s high-flying Huddersfield Town vs Man City, Blackburn vs Man Utd, Wolves vs Chelsea and Fulham vs Tottenham. But perhaps the standout fixture of the round is a real David-versus-Goliath clash: non-league Sutton United welcoming the reigning FA Cup-holders Arsenal to their artificial pitch.
Sutton, some 104 places below the Gunners in the English football hierarchy, have previous experience of upsetting the odds, having dumped then-First Division outfit Coventry City out of the competition in 1989. Their supporters with long(ish) memories will be hoping that lightning can strike twice at Gander Green Lane on Monday night.
There is every chance that a few unsuspected clubs could be in the hat for the quarter-final draw – but which ones? Of the ties, you would fancy both Oxford and Fulham to give their Premier League opponents a terrific run for their money. Middlesbrough make life difficult for themselves because they simply don’t score enough goals; their season’s tally of 19 is the lowest in the Premier League.
That gives Oxford hope that they can spring an upset if they can nick a goal of their own; and they’ve netted in 80% of their League One outings this term. Admittedly it is a leap of faith, as football betting often is, but the Oxford/Draw Double Chance looks outstanding value at 7/4 with bet365.
As for Fulham, they entertain Tottenham at Craven Cottage on Sunday afternoon and will be licking their lips in anticipation of taking on what is likely to be a weakened Spurs side. Their manager, Mauricio Pochettino, has used the FA Cup as a platform to field his fringe players and young guns, and we saw in their heart-stopping 4-3 win in the 4th round over Wycombe that that strategy is fraught with danger.
Fulham have been in decent enough form on home soil this term (W7 D5 L4), and in averaging a shade under two goals per game they possess the weapons to really trouble what could be a second-string Spurs starting eleven. As such, the odds of 38/11 offered at NetBet on a Fulham victory look worthy of investment.
The fixtures to be wary of are where both of the teams involved have more pressing matters in the league to attend to. Take the Huddersfield vs Man City clash, for instance. Clearly the emphasis for City is on maintaining their position in the Premier League’s top four places, in order to book their place in next season’s Champions League.
But the Terriers are no less occupied; they sit third in the Championship just four points behind Brighton and five adrift of Newcastle. Is progression in the FA Cup high on either club’s agenda this season? You would argue probably not, and so matches like Huddersfield Town vs Manchester City are ones to avoid at your chosen online betting provider.
Nobody can really second-guess the starting eleven that Jose Mourinho will put out as Manchester United take on Lancashire rivals Blackburn, but you suspect it will be a strong one given the Special One’s previous for fielding his best available team in the Europa League and EFL Cup. Consequently, the Red Devils are worthy favourites at a short 4/11 at Coral to overcome a Blackburn Rovers outfit that is fighting for their lives in the Championship at present.
The final word must go to plucky Sutton United, who have beaten the likes of Leeds United and AFC Wimbledon in their run to the 5th round. Clearly, none of their players will have experienced anything quite like this before (apart from Craig Eastmond, who was a youth team player at Arsenal), but a raucous atmosphere in front of the TV cameras on Monday night will offer them plenty of encouragement.
And will the Gunners really fancy the job? They have a huge Champions League date with Bayern Munich to get out of the way first, and while this is a competition that Arsene Wenger obviously adores – Arsenal have lifted the trophy for the last two years – you have to question his side’s motivation levels for a trip to a non-league outfit on a plastic (3G) pitch.
It is a bold move and no mistake, but backing Sutton with a +2.25 Asian Handicap (7/9 with NetBet) could turn out to be the best bet of the weekend. If you're interested in seeing all the most up-to-date odds available on the 5th Round of the FA Cup, simply visit NetBet Sports today, home of one of the largest collections of FA Cup betting markets!