FA Cup Quarter Finals - Spread Betting Preview
FA Cup Quarter Finals Spread Betting Preview: Who Will Book Their Place at Wembley?
The quarter-finals of the FA Cup are about to get underway, and with two lower-league outfits still in the mix, there is a certain unpredictability about the destination of the trophy this year. Since Wigan’s shock final win way back in 2013, the world’s most famous domestic trophy has found itself inside the cabinet of a current top-six club every year. With the gap between the elite and those outside of the top six in the Premier League ever-widening, neutrals will be encouraged to see that at least two teams not in that illustrious group will enter the new week as FA Cup semi-finalists.
Watford v Crystal Palace
The first of these ties guaranteed to produce a semi-finalist is the early kick-off on Saturday, as Watford entertain Palace. Both sides have their respective agendas against the other, but it will be Watford who boast the psychological advantage here, having won both league meetings this season by a 2-1 scoreline.
Curiously though, it was by that same scoreline which Palace beat Watford in 2016 to book their place in the FA Cup final. That cup campaign was also the last time either club appeared in the quarter finals.
To get to this point, Watford have beaten Woking, Newcastle and QPR, all away from home and with each of those wins being accompanied by a clean sheet. The fact remains however, that despite doing a league double over the Eagles, Watford have only beaten Palace in one of the last eight head-to-head encounters at Vicarage Road, with exactly half of those games ending level.
For their part, Crystal Palace travel to Vicarage Road in fine scoring form, netting at least once in their last nine away games and averaging multiple goals per road trip. Any goals at Vicarage Road may have to wait though, as across Palace’s last five competitive away matches, over two-thirds of the goals have come in the second half. Wilfried Zaha will certainly be one to watch, as he has five goals in his last six appearances for Palace.
Swansea v Manchester City
Arguably the biggest mismatch on paper, City’s midweek exertions may be Swansea’s gain. Relegated only last season, but reaching the quarter-finals for the second year in succession, Swansea know full well that they have nothing to fight for, other than a top-half finish, in the Championship. In practice, the lack of a promotion or relegation fight has given Swansea the perfect opportunity to focus on the FA Cup, and their results up to this stage reflect that.
Each of the Swans’ FA Cup wins this season have featured a winning margin of exactly three goals, including impressive victories against fellow Championship clubs: 3-0 away to Aston Villa and 4-1 at home to Brentford. Those wins sandwich an accomplished 4-1 demolition of Gillingham in the fourth round.
Overall, Swansea have a decent enough home record in the Championship, winning nearly half of their league games at the Liberty Stadium so far. Additionally, they are unbeaten in five home league matches, entering this cup tie unbeaten in seven matches on their own turf across all competitions, while scoring two or more goals in more than half of their Championship home ties this season.
Of course, there is only one team that anybody has confidence in, and this is reflected by Manchester City's standing as 78-81 tournament favourites in the FA Cup Outright Index. Even when tired from European efforts, Manchester City seldom have trouble outclassing the opposition, and they remain firmly in contention to complete an unprecedented quadruple – twenty years after neighbours United did a then-unthinkable treble.
Manchester City’s route to the quarter-finals has been relatively straightforward. Pep Guardiola’s men have won 7-0, 5-0 and 4-1, barely breaking sweat in any of the matches, with the 5-0 win coming against fellow Premier League side Burnley, who made every effort to force a replay – but to no avail whatsoever.
Wolves v Manchester United
Having picked up over a third of their total Premier League home points haul across their last four league games at Molineux, this is the ideal time for Wolves to face a Manchester United team that very recently tasted a first-ever away defeat under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
To get to their first quarter-final since 2003, Wolves have been required to negotiate a spectrum of tests. First came a 2-1 home victory over Liverpool which saw Wolves’ FA Cup outright odds immediately slashed considerably.
Then came a 2-2 draw away to dogged Shrewsbury, and the replay at Molineux was far from straightforward, with Wolves only just edging out the Shropshire club, before winning 1-0 at Ashton Gate in round five against Bristol City.
Getting the opener could be crucial for Wolves in this match, with Nuno Espirito Santo’s men winning six of the seven home league games in which they’ve netted the first goal. Regardless of who gets off the mark first though, it would be foolish to assume United cannot bounce back from what was a disappointing performance at Arsenal, going down 2-0 to the Gunners.
A nine-game run of away wins prior to that north London tie implies that United have recovered some of the fear factor that got them to last year’s FA Cup final contrary to expectations. Within that run of away wins, United dispatched Arsenal and Chelsea in the fourth and fifth rounds after a formality of a 2-0 home win over Championship relegation battlers Reading.
Even with last Sunday’s defeat now a prominent blot on Solskjaer’s record, United’s away day stats remain impressive. Prior to the Arsenal defeat, the last four of United’s away wins had come via a multiple-goal margin, with United also opening the scoring in the first half in each.
Millwall v Brighton
Last reaching the quarter-finals as recently as 2017, Millwall have picked up just five Championship home points from a possible eighteen since the start of 2019, scoring only four times in the process. The Lions have also been notable for their poor defence, conceding in nearly three-quarters of their Championship home fixtures so far.
It is fortunate for Millwall, then, that the formbook has repeatedly gone out of the window come FA Cup weekend. With each of their preceding FA Cup wins this season yielding a scoreline of just a single goal in Millwall’s favour, it is clear to see that the Lions have guts and determination in abundance. That was particularly the case in the fourth round, as they twice came from behind to dump out Premier League Everton, scoring a dramatic winner in injury time.
For Brighton, this tie is a prime opportunity to reverse some dreadful away form, though there have been occasional highlights, not least the FA Cup third-round win at Bournemouth, and last weekend’s morale boosting victory against arch rivals Crystal Palace, completing a rare double for Chris Hughton’s men (they ran out 3-1 victors in their home tie with Palace back in December). However the Seagulls have managed just one away clean sheet in the league all season. Their goal average on the road has enjoyed a recent rise though, with five straight away matches seeing Brighton score at least once.
Despite being the higher-league side here, Brighton ought to be the more motivated of the two, with the club having last reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup way back in 1983’s run to the final. The Seagulls fell at this hurdle last season, knocked out at Old Trafford, and the Sussex club remains without a major trophy in its 117-year existence.
Can Brighton make the semis for the first time since 1983? Are Wolves and Watford in with a real chance? Will we see an all-Manchester semi-final? Get all the latest FA Cup spread betting prices right here on Sporting Index!