The FA Cup is down to the quarterfinal round, with three top Premier League sides still in the running for the English national club championship.
All four quarterfinal matches will be played this weekend, two each on Saturday and Sunday. The action begins with Tottenham visiting Swansea City. The visitors are widely expected to come away with a victory, with Ladbrokes posting Tottenham Hotspur as a 4/9 favorite. Swansea is a 7/1 pick to win the game, and could certainly feel like an upset is in the cards, as they have won their last seven matches at Liberty Stadium.
Last Chance for Man United
Also on Saturday, Manchester United will play hosts the Brighton, a team that has surprised many by sitting in a solid 11th place in their first year in the Premier League. This marks the first time that Brighton has reached the FA Cup quarterfinals since 1986.
It would be easy to think that Manchester United (a 3/10 favorite) might suffer from a lack of motivation after failing to win their other major competitions this season. But the players say that with little else left to play for, the FA Cup has their undivided attention.
“We have to bounce back,” said striker Romelu Lukaku, referring to Manchester United’s exit from the Champions League at the hands of Sevilla. “We have one trophy to chase and that is the FA Cup.”
Wigan’s FA Cup Dream
The Cinderella story of this year’s tournament is clearly Wigan, the third-tier side that has managed to make it to the final eight of the FA Cup. Having already posted wins over Bournemouth, West Ham, and Manchester City, Wigan Athletic (13/5) has to feel confident about their chances of pulling yet another upset coming into their match on Sunday, when they will be hosting Southampton (23/20).
Southampton has a legitimate reason to look beyond the game as well: sitting 17th in the Premier League, the team faces a relegation battle in the weeks ahead. But new manager Mark Hughes says that playing well in this competition would only help his squad gain the confidence they need to stay up in England’s highest tier.
“Cup runs enable you to increase your form in Premier League games as well so I don’t see it as an irritant the fact we are in the latter stages of the FA Cup, the greatest cup competition in world football,” Hughes told reporters.
The spotlight match of the round may come later on Sunday, when Leicester City (12/5) hosts Chelsea (11/10). With both sides in the top half of the Premier League but out of title contention, fans are likely to see two full-strength lineups at King Power Stadium. One danger for Chelsea may be a letdown after they were eliminated from Champions League competition after a 3-0 loss to Barcelona on Wednesday.
While every remaining club will feel they have some chance to win the FA Cup at this stage, it’s no surprise to see the teams that regularly compete with Europe’s elite competition getting the most attention from bettors. Manchester United and Tottenham are the co-favorites at 9/4 to win the competition, while Chelsea (7/2) is close behind. Leicester (9/1) and Southhampton (10/1) are considered serious threats as well, while Swansea (20/1), Brighton (20/1) and Wigan (40/1) would likely need to pull three major upsets to come away with the trophy.