The English FA Cup third round is not what it used to be but the last-64 stage of the world’s oldest knockout competition still produces its fair share of shocks and one thinks that Loftus Road could be the site of the latest major upset.
English Premier League struggler Queens Park Rangers will be up against English League One contender Sheffield United at Loftus Road on Sunday. Harry Redknapp’s resume includes an English FA Cup title as boss of Portsmouth in 2008 but one thinks that the Queens Park Rangers manager will not be very upset if his Super Hoops side crashes out of the tournament at the first hurdle, even to third-tier Sheffield United.
Redknapp has been in charge of Queens Park Rangers since he succeeded Mark Hughes in November 2012. Queens Park Rangers hosted West Bromwich in the 2013 English FA Cup third round and the Super Hoops were on their way out until Keiron Dyer equalised two minutes into stoppage time. Queens Park Rangers won the replay 1-0 at The Hawthorns but, really, it was an English FA Cup tie that neither the Super Hoops nor West Bromwich wanted to win. Both sides wanted to focus on their fights for their English Premier League lives. Queens Park Rangers drew English League One team Milton Keynes in the 2013 English FA Cup fourth round and the Super Hoops trailed 0-4 at Loftus Road before netting two late goals.
Queens Park Rangers slumped to a big loss in the third round of the 2014 English FA Cup. Redknapp decided not to put out the strongest possible Queens Park Rangers side and the not Super Hoops lost 0-4 to English Premier League middleweight Everton at Goodison Park. Queens Park Rangers was desperate to regain its English Premier League status so Redknapp was not bothered about how the Super Hoops fared in the English FA Cup. The last thing that Queens Park Rangers needed was a fixture backlog that an English FA Cup run would produce.
According to several bookmakers, Queens Park Rangers is the third most likely team – behind Burnley and Leicester – to be relegated from the English Premier League. Queens Park Rangers has to play Sheffield United just three days after it tackles Swansea in the English Premier League and its post-English FA Cup assignment is away to Burnley. One is confident that Queens Park Rangers will place much greater emphasis on its English Premier League games versus Swansea and Burnley than its English FA Cup match against Sheffield United because staying in the top flight is worth millions of pounds and the Super Hoops are trading at odds of +10000 with Bwin to lift aloft the trophy at Wembley Stadium.
One could argue that Sheffield United has bigger fish to fry than the English FA Cup because the Blades are yearning to get back into the English Championship at the fourth time of asking. But Sheffield United has produced several memorable performances in knockout tournaments under Nigel Clough, reaching the semi-finals of last season’s English FA Cup and the last four of this term’s English Capital One Cup. Cup football is part of Sheffield United’s make-up right now.
Paddy Power is offering odds of +450 that Sheffield United emulates fellow English League One side Milton Keynes and knocks out Queens Park Rangers in an English FA Cup third round tie at Loftus Road. Queens Park Rangers has won just two of its last 22 English FA Cup games and, if Redknapp prioritises the English Premier League over the English FA Cup, the probability of that statistic worsening is higher than bookmakers are estimating in their current markets.
Sheffield United to beat QPR
4th January 13:00 GMT
Where to Bet: Paddy Power
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