The underdogs and dark horses who could save the FA Cup this weekend
In these dark days of petro-dollar goliaths and professional football cynics who will rise up to save the FA Cup? Well, Wigan Athletic for one. Last season they downed the sky blue Balrog of Manchester City with a battle cry of “we shall pass!” stunning Wembley and all those who assumed they were to be devoured whole.
Yet their triumph in accelerating the demise of Roberto Mancini’s reign came at a cost, and the Latics fell. Not quite through the fire and water mind, but they certainly dropped out via the lowest dungeon of the Premier League. Since then, Roberto Martinez has shot to fame as the anti-Moyes at Everton, Owen Coyle has come and gone, and Uwe Rosler has arrived in his place, with a collection of youthful top-flight loans sprinkling the squad with quality.
Nick Powell may not be allowed to carry the ball, but he’s carried his teammates at times, and will need to be on point against the war-band hordes of Tony Pulis’ Crystal Palace. The former Crewe Alexandra midfielder is in top form, and his temporary Championship side are slight favourites over their Premier League opposition.
Wigan to win – 2.02
Draw – 3.15
Palace to win – 3.30
(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)
If they do overcome the Eagles, can the Latics defend their cup with another unlikely and heroic charge to the Wembley zenith? Considering the depletion of last season’s victorious squad, coupled with the exertions of a long Championship season, the bookmakers think not.
Does that mean that romance is dead? Far from it. The early kick-off on Saturday sees Bournemouth play host to Brendan Rodgers’ free-scoring Liverpool with the Cherries dreaming of staging a famous upset against the Reds. Whether they can do such a thing will rely heavily on the visitor’s mindset, not to mention the amount of hubris Rodgers decides to pour into the jelly mould he uses to fashion his starting line ups.
Bournemouth to win – 8.50
Draw – 4.75
Liverpool – 1.30
(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)
It’s fair to say the Liverpool manager took some liberties with the starting 11 in their 2-2 away draw with Aston Villa, and with some fans suggesting key players should be rested for the run-in, there could be issues should these ideas be shared by the coaching staff. Bournemouth were tricky opponents for Wigan in the fourth round last season, taking the eventual winners to a reply after a 1-1 draw.
That means of course that anyone brave enough to plump for Eddie Howe’s side could be facing up to a handsome reward should they be able to snatch some unlikely glory. Four of Bournemouth’s seven home wins this season have come by a single goal, and if they are to shock Rodgers’ side this weekend it will likely be by a similar margin.
Betting Instinct Tip – A surprise 1-0 win for Bournemouth is 13.00 with AllYouBet.ag
While their hosts may be long shots when it comes to their chances for taking the trophy back to the south coast with them at the end of the season, Liverpool are currently placed as fourth favourites to win the whole competition.
The blue half of Merseyside will also be on the move down the motorway to play Stevenage, who have been declared favourites for the tie by last year’s FA Cup-winning manager, Martinez according to BBC Sport. Look at that for an effortless return to the opening theme, eh?
The noises coming out of Goodison Park are surely nothing more than mind games however, and the Boro will fancy their chances after having advanced to the fifth round in 2012, where they held Spurs to a 0-0 draw before losing out 3-1 in the repeat fixture.
However, the odds are against Stevenage repeating their dogged display of defiance two years ago at this same stage of the competition.
Betting Instinct Tip – Everton to be winning at half-time and full-time is 1.74 with GR88.com
Of course, for the footballing world to enjoy the delicious taste of an over-the-odds victory for the little guy, favourites must be slain and expectations inverted. Out of the runners and riders galloping into the fourth round, who do you think stands the greatest chance of sating the bloodlust for some triumph over adversity this summer?
GREG JOHNSON (gregianjohnson) is a freelance football writer based in London and contributor to FourFourTwo, Squawka, Drowned In Sound and Mirror Football. He also co-edits The False Nine football blog and podcast.