The FA may be considering scrapping replays and moving FA Cup games to midweek in an effort to reduce fixture congestion, but for now at least, the magic of the FA Cup is alive and well. Sixteen teams are left in the competition and the winners of this weekend’s ties will find themselves in the quarter finals and just two games away from a Wembley final.
The ‘big five’ – Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs – are all still left in the competition, but one of those won’t make it past this stage as Chelsea and Man City are drawn against each other in Sunday afternoon’s epic match.
Leeds, Reading, Hull and Blackburn make up the Championship contingent, but they each face tough challenges against Premier league opposition. The lowest ranked side left in the competition is League One Shrewsbury, whose late win over Sheffield Wednesday in the previous round has seen them rewarded with a home tie against Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United.
It promises to be a weekend full of action, and we’ve got four tips across the two days which all provide excellent value.
Blackburn v West Ham
First up it’s West Ham who are odds against to beat championship strugglers Blackburn at 13/102.30+1301.301.30-0.77 with Bet365, BetVictor and Ladbrokes
The Hammers took advantage of a replay by beating Liverpool at Upton Park after the two had played out a 0-0 draw at Anfield in the first match. The game had gone almost the full 120 minutes after extra time but with penalties looming, Ogbonna popped up with a sublime header to send the West Ham fans into ecstacy and book his side a place in the fifth round.
With Premier League football already confirmed for next season and a place in Europe a distinct possibility, Slaven Bilic will be able to field a full-strength side for this one, and the east end club have made no secret of their desire to have an extended run in this competition. After some superb early season away form which saw them beat Arsenal, Man City and Liverpool on their travels, the Hammers haven’t performed quite so well on the road in recent weeks. However, they’ve only lost two of the last eight away games, and Blackburn don’t have the same quality as the kind of sides West Ham have been facing in the Premier League.
Rovers secured a crucial 3-0 victory over Fulham in midweek which helped them move away from the relegation zone, but they remain in 18th place just eight points above the bottom three. That was only their second win at home in ten matches though, and they’ve been beaten at Ewood Park recently by the likes of Brighton and Hull.
Watford v Leeds
Next up it’s Watford who are decent value to beat Leeds at home at 4/61.67-1500.67-1.500.67 with Paddy Power, Betfred and Bet365
The Hornets are in a similar position to West Ham, in that Premier League football is all but guaranteed for next season, and the rest of this campaign is about finishing as high as possible and having a tilt at FA Cup glory.
They’ve elected to rest players in previous rounds, although the unstoppable Ighalo came off the bench to get the winner in the fourth round against Nottingham Forest. As they get closer to the business end of the competition though, it’s likely that they will select a much stronger side, particularly with Premier League survival practically in the bag. They’ve been beaten on home ground recently by Manchester United, Manchester City and Spurs, but otherwise they’ve won five of the last ten in front of their own fans, and held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw most recently.
Leeds reside in 16th place in the Championship, but they hold an eleven-point cushion over the bottom three and look likely to retain their status for another season. They have no realistic chance of making the play-offs though, and this is their only real chance of success this year. They beat Bolton away in the last round of this competition and have only lost three of the last ten on the road, but Watford are a class above most Championship sides this season and really should put this tie to bed at the first time of asking.
Reading v West Brom
West Brom have been somewhat fortunate to navigate their way past two replays against lower league opposition, but Reading could be worth backing at a big price to cause an upset at 7/42.75+1751.751.75-0.57 with William Hill and Ladbrokes
The Baggies were held 2-2 by Bristol City at the Hawthorns in the third round, and squeezed through with a 1-0 away win in the replay. Again in the fourth round they were held to a 2-2 draw at home, this time by Peterborough, and had to go all the way to penalties in the replay at London Road before finally edging past the League One side. The weekend win over Everton has given them a little breathing space in the league as they now sit eight points above the bottom three, but it has been a forgettable season up to this point with a severe lack of goals.
The Royals had a fairly poor start to the season from which they’ve never really recovered, and they now occupy 15th place in the table with the top six too far away. However, they’re unbeaten in six games at home (won 3. drawn 3), and have beaten West Brom on their last two visits here.
Bournemouth v Everton
Finally, Everton look a decent price when they visit fellow Premier League side Bournemouth, and the Toffees are worth following at 13/102.30+1301.301.30-0.77 with Bet365, Betfred, and Totesport
Bournemouth are embroiled in a relegation battle in the Premier League, and sit just four points above the bottom three. That fight will go to the wire, and there is every chance they will rest players here to concentrate on survival. They’ve lost three of the last four at home, to Arsenal, Stoke and West Ham, and Everton are good enough to take advantage.
Apart from the shock home defeat to West Brom last week, Everton have been in great form winning the previous three games 3-0 against Stoke, Newcastle and Carlisle (in this competition). They’re a better side on their travels than at Goodison Park this term, and after the controversial Capital One Cup semi-final loss, they’ll be keen to have a good run in the FA Cup.
West Ham to beat Blackburn
Sunday 21st February, 14:00 GMT
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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