Is the Magic of the FA Cup Set to Rekindle?

07/12/2018

 

The magic of the FA Cup is a well-documented saying in our nation. Upsets, giant killings, shock defeats, however you want to put it, there is no other competition in the footballing world that is more heavily associated with an underdog story than the FA Cup.

Despite this, the tournament has been dominated by the ‘big guns’ in recent years, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United sharing the trophy out over the last five years. The last fairy tale script in the FA Cup was written by Wigan Athletic, who beat Manchester City in the 2013 final, courtesy of a last-minute Ben Watson header. It was a victory that epitomised exactly what the competition stands for, providing the Latics with a day that their fans will never, ever forget.

So, what chances do we have of an underdog story this year? Inevitably, the odds are favouring the Premier League heavyweights, but everybody knows that the FA Cup is the perfect stage for an upset. See below for our top picks on who we think has an outside chance of reaching their dream day out at Wembley.

Bournemouth

One day, we will consider Eddie Howe in being one of the greatest managers that this country has ever produced, although some Bournemouth fans will already argue this case. Since taking charge of the Cherries for a second spell in 2012, Howe has taken the club from League One contenders to Premier League status, playing some attractive football in the process.  

This season, his dynamic Bournemouth side look destined for a top half finish in the division, with some fans secretly eyeing up a Europa League position. Arguably, this is as far as Howe can take his beloved club, as it is a near impossible task to topple any of the wealthy ‘top 6’ clubs, who continue to monopolise the power in England. With that in mind, this is where a cup run becomes a priority for Howe, as it is another stage for his Bournemouth side to impress on.

After being drawn against South Coast rivals Brighton in the third round, what better way to start your FA Cup campaign off than a local derby? A victory over the Seagulls would certainly be a dream opening round for Bournemouth and would provide positive momentum going forward in the competition. So long as the prolific and in-form attackers of Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and David Brooks stay fit, they have every chance of causing some trouble. Betfred currently has the Cherries at a generous 40/1 to win their first ever FA Cup trophy.

Sheffield United

The city of Sheffield holds some rich footballing history, but in the modern day, their two famous clubs are not what they used to be. Of the two however, it has been the red side of South Yorkshire that have had something to cheer about over the last two years. Having risen from the depths of League One, the Blades are on the up and Premier League promotion remains in their grasp.

Under Chris Wilder, United operate in an expansive manner, putting emphasis on a possession-based style of football. The Englishman’s system of playing continues to be successful and heading into the third round of the FA Cup, they will be made heavy favourites to progress. Conference Premier side Barnet will travel to Bramall Lane in a draw that was widely accepted by the Sheffield club’s fanbase.

At 100/1, they are considered as huge outsiders for the trophy, but they have tasted success in the competition an impressive four times before. Is it about time they reach that magic number five?

Derby County

Another Championship side that are in with a shout are Frank Lampard’s Derby County. The Rams have been on the march this season and despite a few leaky goals, Pride Park have welcomed their new manager with open arms. It may only be his debut managerial season, but the 40-year-old has brought a feeling of belief to the touchline, looking the part in his black gillet and tracksuit.

Derby County will play Southampton at home in the FA Cup. Can Lampard guide them all the way to the final?

Similar to Wilder, Lampard sets up his team to control games and encourages his defenders to distribute from deep. It is a brave system to try in the Championship, but one that his players have taken well to so far. Loanee Harry Wilson has been the club’s standout star, with Mason Mount and Tom Lawrence also impressing. It isn’t of much of a surprise to see the central midfielders flourishing, as Lampard was a specialist in this role for the entirety of his career.

Despite the rejuvenated spirit of the Rams, it won’t be an easy route into the fourth round, as they have been drawn against Premier League opposition in Southampton. The Saints have seriously struggled this season and only time will tell as to what new man Ralph Hasenhuttl can bring to the table. Derby have, however, already overcome Manchester United this season at Old Trafford and their fans should fancy their chances against a low-scoring Southampton side.

Leicester City

Can Leicester produce yet another 21st century miracle? Their 15/16 title-winning season still has their city and the rest of the world in disbelief. Unfortunately, though, winning the Premier League was a once in a lifetime achievement for the Foxes and the FA Cup remains one of the more likely routes for the club to get their hands on a piece of silverware this season.

It may not hold the same pedigree as a league title, but the FA Cup trophy would still be cherished by the Leicester City faithful. Under Claude Puel, the Foxes are deployed with a well-balanced fashion, as they possess similar levels of quality across all areas of the pitch. Jamie Vardy continues to find the back of the net, but it is new signing James Maddison that has been making all the headlines. The young Englishman has proved to be a bargain at £20m, quickly establishing himself as the team’s focal point behind Vardy in the no.10 role.

In terms of their FA Cup 3rd round draw, their fate remains to be unanswered. Leicester will travel away to either League Two side Newport or face National League opposition in Wrexham. They will undoubtedly be made favourites for either fixture, but away days are never easy in this competition. Winning the FA Cup remains to be a story untold in the club’s history books, having lost in the final a record four times. Betfred have the Foxes down at 18/1, making them and Everton the official underdogs outside of the Premier League ‘top six’.

The Favourites

Everybody loves an upset in the FA Cup, but the favourites still need to be mentioned. They are, of course, the favourites for a reason.

Leading the outright market by some healthy distance is Manchester City, something we have become accustomed to under Pep Guardiola’s reign. The Spaniard continues to cast his spell over England and his side have somehow managed to up their game this season. After being drawn against Rotherham at home, the Blues will be expected to progress with significant ease.

Liverpool and Chelsea equally trail City in the FA Cup odds, despite both sides making red-hot starts to the 18/19 campaign. Jurgen Klopp has found the answer to his defensive issues, as his side look much more compact at the back, with Allison and Virgil Van Dijk in fine form. Don’t count the Blues out though, as they are considered specialists of the tournament, having lifted the FA Cup an incredible eight times in their history. Can Maurizio Sarri carry on the tradition with his first ever managerial trophy? Both sides are currently backed with odds of 13/2 with Betfred.

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