Chelsea and Manchester City are both in the top five in the betting for the FA Cup so one of the big guns will be eliminated after this south v north tie. The fixture is one of three that brings together Premier League teams in the fifth round. The last 16 features 11 teams from the top level, four Championship clubs and Shrewsbury from League One. The lowest ranked team still surviving have the plum tie of the round, Manchester United at home.
Due to the amount of matches throughout the season there have been discussions about not playing replays when scores are tied after 90 minutes. The Cup Final at Wembley is now decided on the day with extra-time and penalties if required. Gone are the halcyon days during which Rickie Villa scored his wonder goal for Tottenham against Manchester City in 1981 in the replay of the Saturday final on the following Thursday night.
In the competition in 1979 it took five matches to decide the tie between Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday. Between January 6th and 22nd the teams met five times at various grounds. Arsenal eventually progressed and were the eventual winners after beating Manchester United 3-2 in the final. Alan Sunderland scored the luckiest goal ever to settle the final which was a huge travesty but I’m not bitter or biased!
The smaller clubs say an away replay with one of the major Premier League clubs can finance them for a season. Shrewsbury must balance the benefits of beating United and moving on and settling for a draw and a replay at Old Trafford that would attract 75,000 fans. The away team gets half the gate receipts so assuming the average ticket price is £25 there would be £1.87 million to be split. Shrewsbury attracted almost 6,000 fans for their last Cup match probably grossing about £45,000. They would receive twenty times that from a replay away at United so the draw looks big at 9/2.
The FA Cup is the oldest and most famous football competition in the world but the standout tie of the round between Chelsea and Manchester City could be decided by the strength of the side Manuel Pellegrini selects. The match is being played on Sunday and not much more than 72 hours later City play Dynamo Kiev away from home in the first leg of their last 16 tie in the Champions League. Chelsea must be backed at anything around even money.
The BBC trailer for their coverage plays on the fact that anything can happen in the Cup. Certainly there is a history of shocks in the earlier rounds but usually the cream comes to the top. Since the beginning of the Premier League era for the 1992/93 season 44 of the 46 finalists have come from the top level of English football. In the last 23 seasons the average Premier League finishing position of the Cup winners has been fifth while the losing finalists averaged eighth place in the top league.
In 2004 Millwall from League One were outclassed by Manchester United in the Cup Final. Four years later Cardiff represented the Championship but were beaten by Portsmouth who were in the Premier League at the time. One of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool have won the FA Cup 18 times since 1993 and since joining the elite Manchester City have also won the competition. The point is that despite early upsets the Cup has been dominated by the Premier League superpowers.
The fifth round features just two of eight ties starting at 3pm on Saturday. Television has butchered the tradition of matches starting at the same time and the draw for the next round at lunchtime the following Monday on the wireless. Everton at Bournemouth and West Ham at Blackburn look the most likely winners on the road and the double pays about 7/2. Motivation and the relative strength of the respective starting 11’s will be key but both tips have great FA Cup traditions and a day at Wembley, well two now with the semi-final, would make their seasons.
The fixture between Tottenham and Crystal Palace is the only derby of the round. Tottenham are going for three trophies but would probably swap 10 FA Cups for a first top division title since 1960-61 and their first in the Premier League era. Palace could slip into the relegation places but probably have enough points in the bag and are better than several teams in the mire. They are more likely to select the first choice players so 5/1 for them to beat Tottenham in 90 minutes looks handy.
The treble on Arsenal, Watford and Reading winning home ties with Hull, Leeds and West Brom looks interesting at about 6/1. Ultimately one of the big boys will win the Cup by probably beating another big boy in the final. Manchester United playing Everton would be a great occasion especially if Rooney scores the winner.