This week sees the return of FA Cup action as we take a break from the drama of the Premier League title race and focus on the world’s oldest cup competition, a tournament which this year has fewer than usual Premier League teams remaining in the competition at this stage.
With more than half the Premier League teams eliminated already, the draw for the Fifth Round means that at least two teams from outside the Premier League will play in the quarterfinals, meaning those teams will be just one game away from a Wembley semifinal. A huge incentive, if only financially, for some of the lesser teams that remain in the competition such as Doncaster Rovers, Newport County and AFC Wimbledon.
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Let’s now take a look at each of the eight games and give you our take on who out of the teams is going to progress, and how together with the bet we would make on each of the matches.
FA Cup Fifth Round
Friday 15th February
Q.P.R v Watford – Watford to Qualify – 2/5
This looks an evenly contested tie but in truth, QPR have hit some struggles in the league, while preserving some form in the cup. Watford in contrast have been doing well in both competitions and I feel they are a much strong all round team than their Championship rivals, and well equipped to what QPR can throw at them.
The home side have plenty of quality but I feel they have a bit of a soft centre and defensively they have been lacking in recent games. I feel Watford have the guile and skill to counter QPR’s main threats and to land the win comfortably. Watford to win and both teams to score is a 3/1 shot and that is the bet I would make here.
Saturday 16th February
Brighton v Derby County – Derby to Qualify – 7/4
Chris Hughton will be worried by Brighton’s alarming dip in Premier League form which has seen them being slowly drawn into the relegation battle but this game with Derby will allow him to focus on the cup where the Seagulls have been in decent form.
However, the same is true for Derby who have beaten Man Utd and Southampton in cup competitions this season (both on penalties) and who will be confident of a similar result against an out of sorts Brighton side that does seem to be lacking cutting thrust. I think this game will need extra time and maybe penalties to decide the winner so backing the Draw at 5/2 in the Full Time Result market is a solid option.
AFC Wimbledon v Millwall – Millwall to Qualify – 4/9
Two of the giant-killers from the last round now meet for a place in the quarterfinals with AFC Wimbledon, who sensationally knocked out West Ham 4-2, taking on a Millwall side that despatched Everton 3-2 in two of the more dramatic fourth round clashes.
Wimbledon have been struggling in League One and lie at the bottom of the table, while Millwall are outside the relegation places in the Championship. Both teams will feel they have a real chance here but I think Millwall just have the edge and it may only be one goal that decides it. You can get a Correct Score bet of 1-0 to Millwall at 11/2.
Newport County v Man City – Man City to Qualify – 1/66
The lowest ranked team left in the tournament takes on the Premier League leaders and a side sweeping all before them. Let’s not pretend here, Newport County are not going to win this game, even if Manchester City were to put out a team that saw several players rested. City should win this and win it very comfortably.
The question for me is will Newport County score and on that pitch, I think they could perhaps sneak a goal from a set piece, so I am backing City to win and both teams to score which is an 8/5 shot.
Sunday 17th February
Bristol City v Wolves – Wolves to Qualify – 2/5
For me, this is the tie that could go any way. Bristol City are in outstanding form at the moment, winning all of their last nine and they take on a Wolves side that are in almost as good a form and who possess a real never say die spirit that has seen them score more last minute goals than any other team in the Premier League.
Despite Wolves strength, Bristol City are very tough to beat at home and this is a game I can see going into extra time or penalties to decide the winner and if it does, I feel Wolves extra fitness and class may then tell. Still, backing the draw at 5/2 still looks the best bet to me here.
Doncaster Rovers v Crystal Palace – Crystal Palace to Qualify – 2/7
This could well be a tricky afternoon for Crystal Palace. I think Roy Hodgson’s team will qualify, but Doncaster Rovers are a decent side and they are strong at home and with Palace’s form being so erratic, especially against weaker teams, this is a fixture I don’t feel they are going to enjoy.
That said, they have some outstanding quality in their team and if they can play to their best, then they can win easily. I don’t see them winning that easily though and while I think they will win, this could be by any scoreline, so my tip here is to back Andros Townsend for an anytime goal as he is a 15/8 shot.
Swansea City v Brentford – Swansea to Qualify – 4/5
Two well-matched Championship teams clash in what should be a cracking game at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea won the league game between the teams at Brentford a short while back, a 3-2 victory that will give them confidence heading into this fixture, especially with Brentford’s recent form not being that outstanding.
The Bees have some quality players though but they are struggling for form and conceding too many goals for their attacking players to rescue anything from. That could be the case here as I am backing Swansea to win inside 90 minutes and I think the Swansea to win and both teams to score option at 15/4 is the best bet available.
Monday 18th February
Chelsea v Manchester United – Chelsea to Qualify – 8/13
I think this is a cracking tie to finish off the Fifth Round as both sides will recognise the value of a cup win to salvage their season. Chelsea need to spark into life following their humiliation against Man City last weekend in the Premier League and a win here would certainly do that. United though need to bounce back after their loss to PSG in midweek in the Champions League and this tournament is now perhaps their most realistic opportunity to land silverware this season.
This is a game that I can see going down to the wire and perhaps requiring extra time and even penalties to decide the winner. Given their good record against United, I’m backing Chelsea to come through in a very close one and I think the 6/4 on Eden Hazard to score any time in this game is the bet to back here.