The FA Cup quarter finals will be played over the weekend of the 7th-9th of March, and we’ve been looking at the outright markets to try and find a little bit of value betting for the rest of the competition. It’s been billed as one of the most open FA Cups for years, with plenty of Premier League teams biting the dust in the earlier rounds, including both Chelsea and Manchester City. However, despite three Football League teams (Bradford, Reading and Blackburn) still being in the competition, the market is headed by the three ‘big teams’ still in contention – Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal. Let’s look at the odds for the eight quarter-finalists:
Manchester United – +280 with Bwin
West Brom – +1400 with Betvictor
Reading – +3300 with 888Sport
Bradford – +3300 with Bet365
Blackburn – +6600 with Coral
Clearly the odds aren’t just representative of the team’s relative chances, but are also heavily influenced by the quarter-final draw. Here’s a recap of the weekend’s fixtures:
Bradford v Reading
Aston Villa v West Brom
Liverpool v Blackburn
Manchester United v Arsenal
After the heroics of knocking out Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Bradford were rewarded with a home tie against Sunderland. They duly put the Black Cats to the sword and given the choice would have probably picked the exact draw they were given for this round. Once a lower league team gets to this stage thoughts of giant-killings are replaced by genuine dreams of reaching Wembley, and with both semi-finals set to be played at the famous venue, these two sides are just one game away. Reading beat fellow Championship side, Derby, to reach the quarter-final, but would certainly have preferred a home draw. Bradford’s pitch was bordering on horrendous in that match against Sunderland, and they’ll cope with conditions better on the day. As for winning the tournament, neither side can be seriously backed, but Bradford are worth a punt to be the furthest progressing football league team at +138 with Skybet
Villa and West Brom meet in a Black Country derby, just days after an identical fixture in the Premier League. It’s the toss of a coin on who will win this match, but whoever progresses will be praying they draw the winner of Bradford and Reading, rather than one of the big teams in the other two quarter-finals. Both are a decent enough price, but neither inspire confidence that they can lift the trophy. Villa are deep in a relegation battle, and their cup wins against Blackpool, Bournemouth and Leicester have punctuated a run of seven straight Premier League defeats. Tony Pulis has dragged West Brom away from the drop zone, but they still have work to do to ensure safety. A cup run has been the icing on the cake since he took over and a Wembley appearance could beckon.
Blackburn are rank outsiders for the competition, and that’s largely due to the fact that they were drawn away against a rejuvenated Liverpool side. The Reds have been on a remarkable run of form which has seen them lose just once in the last 20 games over 90 minutes, culminating in the impressive 2-1 victory over Manchester City last weekend. It’s not escaped the attention of the media that the cup final is due to be played on Steven Gerrard’s birthday in his last season at Liverpool, and the fans could be forgiven for believing their name is on the trophy. The draw has seen them installed as favourites, but to win the competition they will almost certainly have to play Man. Utd or Arsenal, and that’s by no means a forgone conclusion.
The big game of the weekend is reserved for Monday night as Manchester United take on Arsenal at Old Trafford. That goes some way towards explaining why the home side are a shorter price to win the trophy than the visitors, but the Gunners could represent a little bit of value before kick off. They are the current holders after beating Hull in the final last year, and are in impressive form at the moment, winning 11 of their last 14 to rise to 3rd in the Premier League table. Manchester United are hot on their heels in 4th, but they still remain a little unconvincing under van Gaal, despite getting the desired results. They do have an excellent record at home against Arsene Wenger’s team, but this is a one-off match, and Arsenal will be keen to exact revenge for the 2-1 defeat United inflicted on them at the Emirates back in November. Even a draw here would be a decent result for the Gunners, and they would happily take a replay on home soil.
There’s a lot of football to be played before anyone can think about climbing those famous steps at Wembley to collect the trophy, but it will remain fresh in the minds of the Arsenal players, and realistically, it looks like their only real chance of silverware once again. The same could be said of both Manchester United and Liverpool, and it’s interesting that these three are also in a battle for two places in the Premier League’s top four. There is little to choose between the teams and each of them could beat the others on their day. On that basis it often pays to side with the outsider, and Arsenal will be a much shorter price if they can navigate a way past Manchester United this weekend.
To win the FA Cup
To be the furthest progressing Football League team
Bradford – +138 with Skybet
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