The best FA Cup Tie is Saved for Last as Preston Play Man United on Monday Night.
The fifth round of the FA Cup features 10 teams from the Premier league and six clubs who do not play at the highest level of English football. The Championship is represented by four teams in the last sixteen while Bradford and Preston play in League One. Arsenal are the favourites to win the Cup for the 12th time in their history. The 9 top teams in the betting play in the Premier League and only Leicester are behind a team from the Championship.
Since the 1995-96 renewal only two winners of the FA Cup have been from outside the elite of the Premier league. Despite the continued devaluing of the competition the cream more often than not comes to the top though Portsmouth in 2008 and Wigan in 2013 are the exceptions. Seventeen of the last nineteen winners have come from a small group of major teams that comprises Chelsea, Arsenal, the two Manchester clubs and Liverpool.
The Football Association Challenge Cup is a knockout competition contested by the top ten tiers of English football. A club’s stadium must meet certain standards of safety and capacity for it to be eligible. A team from the top two levels must come through six ties to win the Cup. Teams are not seeded and each round of fixtures is determined by a free draw. This means nobody knows from round to round their opponents and that throws up some great ties.
Arsenal and Manchester United are the joint winning most teams. They have both won the trophy 11 times and been in a further 7 finals, including in 1979 when they played each other at the old Wembley Stadium. The glamour match of the season has lost some of its unique appeal as the semi-finals are now played at Wembley. Drawn matches must be decided in the first replay and extra time and penalties now determine the Cup winners when the match is tied after 90 minutes.
Everton have won the FA Cup 5 times but have lost in 8 finals, a record for the competition. Tottenham Hotspur have lost just one of the 9 finals they have contested including in 1961 when they won the Double, winning the Cup and league in the same season. Leicester City have lost in four finals and never won the Cup while 20 teams are one time winners. Manchester United’s’ first and last appearance in the showpiece match span 98 years.
Three of the eight ties in the fifth round match two Premier League clubs, there is one clash between two sides from the second tier and the remaining four ties bring together sides from different divisions. The fixture between Preston and Manchester United is the biggest mis-match in terms of the team’s relative positions in the hierarchy of English football. Four top level teams are playing at home, three Championship clubs have home ties and Preston from League One have the plum home fixture. In seven ties a Premier League club is the favourite in match betting.
The tie of the round is the meeting between Preston and Manchester United, delayed until Monday evening for live television coverage. Bradford are upset they do not figure in the schedule of live matches as they produced the performance of the fourth round by beating Chelsea 4-2 at Stamford Bridge despite falling two goals behind in the first half. Their home match with Sunderland is not deemed worthy of live coverage but Bradford should have been rewarded for winning at Chelsea.
Preston are four places above Bradford in League One but the side are unlikely to meet in the quarter finals of this season’s FA Cup as they are both big outsiders to progress. In fact of the 16 teams left in the competition Preston are the biggest price to win their match in 90 minutes. Manchester United have struggled to beat teams from lower divisions in the first two rounds and it would take a major shock to not see them play in the round of the last eight.
United are unbeaten in 17 matches in all competition except for a defeat to Southampton at Old Trafford in January. Louis Van Gaal said the team showed great spirit in drawing with West Ham in their last match. However, the tactics became more desperate and industrial as time passed and in the context of finishing in the top four it was two points dropped rather than one gained.
Preston are preparing for the biggest game in their recent history on the back of a solid run. They have lost just 1 of 14 league matches played at home this season, scoring 24 goals and conceding 15. They finished fifth in the division last season and are a well organised side. They scored 72 goal sin total with31 coming in the last 15 matches. This time they have develop more of a winning mentality and are pressing to make the play-offs again but are also in the mix for automatic promotion.
Teams are not seeded and each round of fixtures is determined by a free draw. This means nobody knows from round to round their opponents and that throws up some great ties. The classic Cup match is between a team from the top division and a non-league side. Any team in the draw have an equal chance of playing the Premier League champions or the side at the bottom of League One or Two. A tie with one of the big boys can be lucrative for minor teams as each club shares gate receipts and TV money can boost the income from a dream tie such as the one between Preston and United.