The wonderful Wembley arch is within sight on the horizon for those 16 teams left standing in this year’s Emirates FA Cup, and they are just about daring to dream.
Ahead of a cracking weekend of cup action, football odds expert Adrian Clarke previews and predicts the outcome of a quartet of interesting 5th round ties…
Rochdale v Tottenham Hotspur
League One strugglers Rochdale have been accused of laying out an all-too-generous welcome mat for Spurs by relaying a brand new £500,000 pitch.
But while there’s no question the hole-ridden sandpit that helped them beat Millwall in the last round would have been a leveller that gave them a better chance of a giant killing, I don’t blame them for forking out on a better surface.
Keith Hill’s side likes to play good football in the third tier, so it’s in their long-term interests to have a better pitch. I can see why they’ve done it.
As for the game itself, Ian Henderson is the man Mauricio Pochettino’s men have to watch. He has five goals in the FA Cup this term and is 19/4 to notch anytime in this one at Spotland. He is white hot at the moment.
— Football RightNow (@FootyRightNow) February 14, 2018
The FA Cup is hugely important to Spurs this season though.
They might be in outstanding form but until they put silverware on the table they will be continually accused of underachieving.
Realistically, this is their best opportunity to win something as a team, especially with the final on their home ground this year.
I expect a strong starting XI to be named by Pochettino, especially in light of their close call away to Newport County in round four. He won’t take any unnecessary risks.
It will be a battle, and scrappy to watch at times, but I have to fancy a handsome away win.
It should be routine for a side that needs to progress.
Sheffield Wednesday v Swansea City
Welcome to the Carlos Carvalhal Derby!
Heads will have been scratched at Hillsborough in recent weeks as they’ve sat back and watched the gaffer they sacked inspire Swansea City to a nine-game unbeaten streak.
The Portuguese coach, who has captured the hearts of Premier League followers with his funny analogies, has left the Owls with a bit of sticky, smelly egg on their face.
Back to winning ways last night at Hillsborough..
— Sheffield Wednesday (@swfc) February 14, 2018
After struggling in the wake of Carvalhal’s departure, new boss Jos Lukukay did get his first win last time out, and what a win it was. Beating Derby County 2-0 was just the fillip they needed to keep a healthy distance between themselves and the Championship drop zone.
The hero of the hour who scored both goals in midweek, Lucas Joao, is a 17/2 shot to score the first goal incidentally.
Predicting the outcome of this clash is tricky, as both managers may rest first-choice players for their respective relegation struggles, but I don’t see on-song Swansea being beaten in Yorkshire.
They are on a fabulous run, and their charismatic boss will demand they maintain momentum.
Huddersfield Town v Manchester United
The Terriers vanquished Jose Mourinho’s side 2-1 earlier on this season in front of a deliriously happy John Smith’s Stadium, and they are 13/2 to conjure up a repeat.
On the back of a thumping 4-1 triumph at home to Bournemouth that price is starting to look pretty attractive.
The timing of the fixture could also play into Huddersfield’s hands, as upcoming clashes against Sevilla and Chelsea may prompt the United boss to rest a plethora of star names.
Opinion: Why #MUFC‘s trip to Huddersfield holds extra importance.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 13, 2018
But personally, I’d still back the Red Devils to nick a win.
They beat David Wagner’s side with ease at Old Trafford earlier this month – with the underdogs failing to register a shot on target – and after the fallout from a lame 1-0 loss away to Newcastle United last weekend you’d expect a motivated reaction from United.
It may be the Year of the Dog in this Chinese New Year, but I don’t believe the Terriers have their name on the cup. This is a tough draw.
This has the look of a 0-2 to me, which is priced up at 23/4.
Wigan Athletic v Manchester City
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are a ridiculously brilliant outfit that’s starting to look strong enough to land an unprecedented quadruple BUT they won’t have been delighted by drawing Wigan away.
— Wigan Athletic (@LaticsOfficial) February 15, 2018
The Latics are their FA Cup bogey team; winning an unforgettable 2013 final 1-0 at City’s expense, and then repeating the trick in their last meeting four years ago in the quarters when they went to the Etihad Stadium, and won 2-1.
I’m not buying that they will triumph this time though.
Manchester City’s class of 2018 are on another level and shouldn’t have too many problems disposing of the League One leaders, who have been distracted in the build-up, losing their last couple of games.
There will be goals, I’m backing Over 3.5 at 26/25, and I see the in-form Ilkay Gundogan building on his brace in Basel with another strike in this one.
Cup romance isn’t dead, but I don’t see it turning up at the DW Stadium.