Betrescue’s Chief Sports Writer Chris Hutcheon takes his weekly look at all the major football action in England – the FA Cup Third Round.
Glancing down the list of current FA Cup prices, most punters will be struck by how tightly bunched the four favourites are. At best, only three points separate Ladbrokes’ 4/1 choice Chelsea from Betdaq’s 7/1 shots Arsenal – hardly surprising, though the prices available for several other serious contenders are worthy of further consideration.
For example, Manchester City open their Cup campaign as Partybets’ 11/1 shots, while Spurs are an inviting 12/1 according to Totesport. However, perhaps the most surprising price is Betfred’s enormous 22/1 posted against Aston Villa ahead of some intriguing third round ties.
The fact that Leeds could have sold their 8500-ticket allocation for their FA Cup third round trip to Manchester United, several times over, suggests that it remains one of the biggest rivalries in football, despite the fact that the pair haven’t met for almost six years.
A contrast in fortunes has led to the fixture’s hiatus; with Leeds having floundered and dropped down a couple of divisions while, much to the chagrin of the West Yorkshire outfit, United have won the Champions League, the FA Cup, the League Cup and three Premiership titles over the same period. However, that will count for nought as the pair renew hostilities in what is sure to be a hotly contested encounter at Old Trafford.
The hosts’ superiority and home advantage means they are bet365’s 1/4 favourites, with Simon Grayson’s men quoted at 12/1 by Betdaq to cause what would be considered these days to be a huge upset. Leeds are 5/1, courtesy of Victor Chandler to force a replay but it’s difficult to oppose Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, even though the United boss could rest one or two of his key players.
Nevertheless, the League One leaders will undoubtedly make life very uncomfortable for the Premiership champions and there’s every chance that the pair will be on level terms at the break (19/10, Jaxx.com). Manchester United are 7/2 at Totesport to come out on top following that drawn first half and with a close affair a distinct possibility, a solid case can be made for both 888Sport’s 6/1 for Ferguson’s charges to notch the only goal and Partybets’ 11/4 for the home side to shade it by a solitary goal.
Meanwhile, Michael Owen could be included from the start and he’s 3/1 (Betfred) to break the deadlock and at the other end, in-form Leeds marksman Jermaine Beckford is 8/1 with Ladbrokes to send the sizeable travelling contingent into raptures by opening the scoring.
Cup holders Chelsea entertain Watford and a home banker; the Blues are one for accumulators at just 1/5 (Betdaq.co.uk) to come out on top. Carlo Ancelotti’s troops are 2/5 with Paddy Power to win by at least two goals and also set for fairly comfortable successes are last season’s runners-up Everton, Totesport’s 1/4 favourites to beat Carlisle, Tottenham (2/9, bet365), who face Peterborough and Liverpool; quoted by william Hill at 4/9 to prevail at Reading.
Sunderland and Stoke are 1/5 and 1/6 with Betdaq and William Hill respectively to avoid banana skin ties against non-league pair Barrow and York respectively, Ladbrokes price Aston Villa at 8/13 to progress at the expense of Blackburn and in the other all-Premiership showdowns, Wigan are a generous 10/11 (Paddy Power) to defeat Hull but with half an eye on the league and a potentially youthful line-up, Arsenal might bow out at West Ham; a result rated at a hefty 9/2 by Stan James.
Elsewhere, in-form pair Nottingham Forest and Birmingham are 9/4 (Jaxx.com) to be inseparable at the City Ground, Manchester City (4/6, Stan James) should ease past Middlesbrough and Fulham look a safe bet at 1/4 with Partybets, at home to Swindon. In terms of shocks meanwhile, Stan James make MK Dons 11/4 to stun travelsick Burnley and improving Tranmere are 7/2 (Victor Chandler) to beat Wolves.
Best single: Wigan to beat Hull; 10/11 PaddyPower.com
Best handicap: MK Dons + 1 goal to beat Burnley; 4/5 Betfred.com
Best acca: Aston Villa, Liverpool, Man City, Stoke, Wigan; 10/1 Totesport.com
To compare all the weekend’s match odds, click here