The first weekend in January traditionally sees us given a break from the rigours of league football as the big boys of English football stomp their way into the FA Cup 3rd Round. This, for many, is where the FA Cup really begins in earnest, despite the fact that the tournament has actually been going on since August.
The FA Cup 3rd Round is romanticised as a mythical land where David can triumph over Goliath and where the magic of the cup can roam freely through the divisions. However, no team outside of the traditional Premier League Big Six has won the trophy since Wigan’s dramatic triumph in 2013, and the last time a team outside of the Premier League appeared in the FA Cup Final was back in 2007/08 when Cardiff lost to Portsmouth.
Still, the earlier rounds are rife with the potential for an upset, and it undeniably makes for fantastic viewing as you watch a lower league club face off with the financial might of a Premier League leader. You can find all our betting tips and predictions for this weekend’s action on our FA Cup homepage.
You can also find a host of special offers for the weekend on our FA Cup 3rd Round Betting Offers page.
FA Cup Outright Winners Prediction – Chelsea
Understandably, the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool are the bookmakers favourites coming into this round of FA Cup action. They have two of the best starting lineups in the Premier League and their performances in the league so far showcase that.
However, the big difference between Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, and Manchester United when compared to the likes of Chelsea is their other commitments this season. The preceding four all have the demanding rigours of Champions League knockout football to contend with, and it seems likely that both Man City and Liverpool will be present in the latter stages of the Champions League. The FA Cup is obviously a major tournament to win, but the chances are that the Champions League will take priority over it when push comes to shove.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have the significantly less important Europa League knockout stages to contend with. We’ve already seen Maurizio Sarri rotate his squad in the Europa League group stages, and while his selections may get stronger as the tournament progresses he is likely to place at least as much importance on the FA Cup.
Not to mention the fact that The Blues are the most successful team in the FA Cup over the last decade. They beat Manchester United at Wembley last season to claim their fourth FA Cup trophy in the last 10 years, and they have appeared in half of the FA Cup Finals in this time period, and their current squad is very similar to the one that lifted the trophy last May. They begin their defence with the hosting of Nottingham Forest on Saturday, a tie we’re expecting them to win comfortably.
There is a similar argument for Arsenal to lay their hands on the silverware as well, but their performances of late suggests that they are a bit off the level of Chelsea and there’s a high chance that they could place more emphasis on the Europa League. Unai Emery achieved an unprecedented three consecutive Europa League wins with Sevilla between 2014 and 2016 to become the joint most successful manager in UEFA Cup / Europa League history, and his squad selections during the group stages didn’t employ quite as much rotation as Maurizio Sarri did. This suggests he’s taking placing the Europa League near the top of Arsenal’s priorities, and that combined with their team not being up to the level of Chelsea and we think the Stamford Bridge outfit have a better chance of FA Cup success.
Chelsea have lost just one of their last 13 matches in the FA Cup, and backing them to lift the trophy later this year looks a great value offering.
FA Cup Outright Winner Longshot Prediction – Watford
While teams from outside the Premier League haven’t really been present in the latter rounds of the FA Cup in recent years, the top flight outsiders do tend to make their presence known all the way up to the final. In fact, seven of the last 10 FA Cup Finals have seen a team from outside the traditional Big Six appear at Wembley, so an eachway bet on one of these outsiders could open the door to a lot of value.
bet365 are paying out 1/2 odds on a eachway bet if your selection reaches the FA Cup Final, so a £10 eachway bet on Watford at 40/1 would net you £600 profit if the cup paid it’s first visit to Vicarage Road and £190 profit if The Hornets walked away as valiant losers at Wembley.
Watford have had a tumultuous time over the last few years, changing managers regularly and generally enduring a rollercoaster of a time at Vicarage Road. However, for the time being Javi Gracia seems to have instilled some calm to the club. They sit in a comfortable and respectable 8th place in the Premier League, and while their hopes of European qualification are looking slim at the moment their 13 point cushion on the drop zone means they are looking pretty safe from the threat of a relegation battle.
This sort of situation lends itself perfectly to a FA Cup run. They can focus all their attentions on the cup, whereas many of their opponents will probably have ongoing battles in the league to distract them. Not only that, but The Hornets have a fantastic record at home in the FA Cup. They haven’t lost a home FA Cup tie since 2012 against Spurs, and they have managed to win 6 of their last 9 FA Cup ties overall. We’re expecting them to make it 7 from 10 when they visit Woking on Sunday.
Admittedly Watford’s pedigree in the FA Cup is nothing to write home about, but this is as good a time as any to start. They have a deep and talented pool of players to draw upon at the moment and their showing in the first half of the Premier League season has put them in a very promising position. Javi Gracia has taken like a duck to water in the managerial hot seat, and with a bit of luck this could all culminate in a famous FA Cup run.
They are undoubtedly outsiders when compared with the likes of the Premier League Big Six, but at odds of 40/1 and with generous eachway terms they look extremely good value for money.