Punters Look for Revenue Rather Than Romance

Dan Roebuck, football betting expert, previews this one…

According to many pundits, Lincoln and Sutton’s exploits in the FA Cup last year helped breathe new life into the competition.

The non-league pair made the latter stages of the oldest knockout tournament in world football, with the Imps reaching the quarterfinals – the first side outside of the top four divisions in England to do so for 103 years – before going down to eventual winners Arsenal.

The naysayers are already bemoaning the fact that there are no non-league teams in this year’s third round, but, although the journalists will have to work a little harder to find a compelling narrative, bettors are reminded that as bookmakers don’t indulge in the romance of the cup, they shouldn’t either.

Missing Players Muddy Merseyside Clash

Television executives from studios in Salford and Stratford could be heard cheering when Liverpool and Everton were paired together in the third round.

A 24th Merseyside derby in the FA Cup conjures up memories of the incredible 4-4 fifth-round replay between the pair in 1991 and the final from two years earlier – although one meeting those from ITV Sport will want to forget is the replay at Goodison Park in 2009, when the producers cut to adverts and missed Dan Gosling’s winning goal (no wonder they lost the contract – Ed).

Punters tuning into the BBC’s coverage on Friday night won’t have to worry about commercial breaks, but as ever will have to try and second guess just how strong both line-ups will be.

Two players almost certain to be missing for Liverpool, who are 10/1 to win the cup, are Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who have been afforded leave by Jurgen Klopp to attend the African Player of the Year awards in Ghana 24 hours prior to this tie.

Sam Allardyce, whose side are 33/1 to lift the trophy, has played weakened teams in cup competitions throughout his managerial career, but this might be an opportunity for a rare and morale-boosting win at Anfield, so a better than expected eleven could be employed.

Everton are 13/2 to win across Stanley Park, but a safer option might be to back them with half a goal start at 41/20.

United’s Sluggish Starts To Stay

One game not screened live in the UK is Manchester United’s home tie with Derby.

It’s the first time United won’t be featured on television in the FA Cup since January 2005, when they drew 0-0 with Exeter. Rams fans who haven’t got a ticket to Old Trafford, therefore, won’t be able to see whether their side can emulate the Grecians and earn a replay.

The draw is priced at 19/4, with United 6/25 and Derby 21/2.

Given Jose Mourinho’s team suffered at the hands of Championship side Bristol City in the Carabao Cup, it seems unlikely that his charges will bow out to lower league opposition for the second time in the same season – something that hasn’t occurred since they lost to Oxford (League Cup) and Bournemouth (FA Cup) in the 1983/84 campaign.

Derby’s focus will surely be on promotion – they are 22/1 to win the Championship and 1/7 to claim a top-six finish – and any lengthy cup run could scupper their chances of going up.

Still, I expect plenty of resistance from Gary Rowett’s team, who have lost only twice away in the league this term.

United, 6/1 to lift the cup in May, have scored only once in the first half of their last five fixtures and it might pay to back the draw at 45 minutes at 33/20. An increasingly desperate United side could then put the pressure on after the restart – over 1.5 goals in the second half is a tempting 19/20.

Dons to Endure Woeful Wembley Return

Wimbledon might have been to Wembley for a play-off triumph two seasons ago, but Sunday’s tie against Tottenham will be the first time the Dons will have been back to the home of English football to play in the FA Cup since that famous win over Liverpool back in 1988.

Can today’s Crazy Gang defeat the 8/1 fourth favourites for the cup? The oddsmakers suggest they’ll be no shock, with Spurs 1/10, Neal Ardley’s side 20/1 and the draw 8/1.

Maurício Pochettino’s team’s residency at Wembley is much less of a problem for the north Londoners than it was at the start of the season. They’ve won their last four games under the iconic arch, scoring 15 goals in the process.

Another easy success is predicted against an inconsistent Wimbledon side that have won back to back league games only once this term.

Split your stakes and back 3-0 (5/1) and 4-0 (7/1) to Tottenham, plus punt the hosts to ‘win to nil’ at 1/2.

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