Seventeen Football League sides remain in the FA Cup ahead of 4th Round weekend, with twelve of them looking to upset the odds and see off higher level opponents.
Last year only Sheffield United sprung a surprise at this stage, when they won 1-0 AET at Fulham, a result which helped put them on their way to a memorable semi-final appearance at Wembley. This year the Blades are concentrating on the Capital One Cup, but will still be looking to progress when they face fellow League One promotion contenders Preston at Deepdale.
However, here’s our preview of the weekend’s key ties involving Football League clubs, all thanks to BetBright…
Cambridge United vs Manchester United (Friday)
The lowest ranked team left in the competition entertain the eleven times winners in front of the TV cameras at the Abbey Stadium on Friday night, in what promises to be a tricky tie for Louis van Gaal and his stuttering Manchester United side.
United haven’t won the Cup since they beat Millwall 3-0 in Cardiff over a decade ago, but they have lost just one of their last 40 FA Cup matches against lower-league opponents, so are unsurprising 1/6 favourites to progress.
Richard Money’s U’s are in fine form in League Two, with three successive wins to start 2015, including a 4-0 victory over in-form Newport last weekend. They are back in the 4th round for the first time in 15 years, and you can get them at 29/2 to cause one of the competitions’ biggest ever shocks. The ever dangerous Ryan Donaldson is also worth an outside shot for first goal at 16/1.
Birmingham City vs West Brom
One of the ties of the round sees Gary Rowett’s rejuvenated Birmingham take on Tony Pulis and the Baggies in a much anticipated West Midlands derby at St. Andrews.
The Blues came from behind to squeeze past Blyth Spartans in the 3rd round, whilst West Brom crushed non league Gateshead 7-0. Pulis hasn’t seen his side concede a goal since taking full charge, but I fancy them to concede here, given the complete reversal of Birmingham’s home form under Rowett. Blues are 14/5 to win, with Clayton Donaldson 13/2 for the first goal. He bagged a hat-trick in their last home game against Wigan.
Chelsea vs Bradford City
Bradford’s reward for a thumping 4-0 win over Championship side Millwall in Round 3 is a trip to (probably be thumped at) Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea are overwhelming favourites to brush aside opponents two divisions below them.
However Phil Parkinson and the Bantams are no strangers to a Cup upset. They knocked out Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa on their way to the Capital One Cup Final in 2013, before returning to Wembley a few months later to clinch promotion via the play-offs.
Bradford currently sit sixth in League One and are available at 39/2 if you fancy them to produce a huge shock. Both teams to score at 13/10 looks an outside shout, especially if the Blues field a weakened defence.
Manchester City vs Middlesbrough
Second in the Premier League plays second in the Championship at the Etihad, where Manchester City will be hoping they don’t suffer the same fate as last season. City lost 2-1 at home to holders Wigan in the 2013/14 quarter final, but will be confident here of bouncing back from last weekend’s shock home reverse to Arsenal. They are 1/4 favourites to progress.
Middlesbrough are unbeaten in six and have only conceded one goal since Christmas Day, although anything they achieve in Manchester is surely a bonus. Aitor Karanka’s men have their eyes set on a Premier League return after nearly six years away. On loan Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford has nine goals so far this season and is available to score first at 12/1.
Liverpool vs Bolton
The return of Emile Heskey! That’s the big story as Neil Lennon prepares to take his in-form Bolton side to Anfield, for a tie against the seven time winners Liverpool. Wanderers are in great form too, with just two defeats in their last fourteen games. If you fancy a shock, you can get them at 33/4 to make Round 5, or Heskey to score anytime at 7/2.
The Reds saw off AFC Wimbledon in a tricky 3rd round clash at Kingsmeadow, part of a nine game unbeaten run which has helped lift the gloom developing over Brendan Rodgers’ men. They are huge favourites at 3/10 to extend that run on Saturday.
Bristol City vs West Ham (Sunday)
One of the weekend’s most intriguing contests. West Ham finally emerged victorious in the third round following a thrilling 9-8 penalty shoot out win over Everton at Upton Park, and are in good form, with only two defeats in their last twelve.
However, Bristol City are one of THE teams of the season so far. Steve Cotterill’s men lie second in the League One table with a game in hand, plus are on the brink of a Wembley appearance after a first leg win at Gillingham in the Southern Area Final first leg. There is definitely value in the Robins at 27/10, or Jay Emmanuel-Thomas to score anytime at 13/5.
Aston Villa vs AFC Bournemouth (Sunday)
Championship leaders Bournemouth have scored as many league goals in Birmingham (8) as Villa have this season, following their incredible 8-0 win at St. Andrews late last year. An incredible stat that pretty much sums up the state of Aston Villa at the moment. If you fancy Villa to actually score a goal and progress you can get them at 27/20 or a replay at 47/20.
Bournemouth look a much better bet at 41/20. Eddie Howe’s men have bagged by the bucketload this season, including six in the last round, and have knocked out Premier League opposition in the Capital One Cup too (West Brom). The shock here would almost be a home win.
Brighton & Hove Albion vs Arsenal (Sunday)
Ex Spurs man Chris Hughton leads his new club Brighton into battle with the holders Arsenal at the Amex, off the back of a hugely impressive 3-2 win against Ipswich on Tuesday. Albion have had a dreadful first half of the season but will hope an extended Cup run can help breed confidence to turn the corner in the league. They are available at 11/2 to knock out the Gunners.
Arsene Wenger will be hoping for more of the same from his side after last Sunday’s 2-0 win at Manchester City. Despite their up and down form on the road, you have to fancy Arsenal to prove too strong for their Championship opponents at 4/9.
Rochdale vs Stoke City (Monday)
Rochdale are flying in League One under Keith Hill and will be hoping for a repeat of their 3rd round win over Nottingham Forest when Mark Hughes brings his side to Spotland, on the back of a midweek warm-weather getaway in Dubai. If you fancy Dale to extend their three match winning run at the start of 2015 they are available at 41/10.
However Stoke’s away record is much improved this season, and you suspect they will prove too strong and powerful in front of the TV cameras at Spotland on Monday night. You can back Peter Crouch to net first for them at 9/2.
You can find all the odds you need on this weekend’s FA Cup ties thanks to BetBright here:
(Preview written by Mark Crossley, host of We Are Going Up).