FA Cup serious business as usual for 9/2 Chelsea
Manchester City are Coral’s 4/1 favourites for the FA Cup after the 4th Round draw, but Chelsea and Arsenal are close behind on 9/2 followed by the two Merseyside clubs, Liverpool (11/2) and Everton (9/1).
With what seems like a comfortable home tie in prospect against either Bristol City or Watford if and when they finish the job against Blackburn after a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park last Saturday, hot Premiership title favourites City are understandably also at the head of the market for a competition they should have won last season.
And fans of Arsenal (Coventry at home), Liverpool (Bournemouth or Burton away) and Everton (Stevenage away) will also be looking forward to the 5th Round and beyond after their kind draws.
Chelsea supporters, on the other hand, will not be so confident of smooth progress to the last 16 after they came out of the hat with Stoke in the only all-Premiership tie of the round.
But the FA Cup is a competition that Chelsea have taken very seriously in recent years – as their record of four wins in the last seven years attests – and Jose Mourinho has sent out a clear message that it will be no different this time around.
While other managers, some with better reason than others, fielded below-strength teams in the 3rd Round at the weekend, Mourinho laid his cards out on the table with a line-up as strong as you would expect for any Premiership game.
And they didn’t just go through the motions against Derby County.at Pride Park. This was a potential banana skin, but Chelsea’s players gave the Championship highflyers the respect they deserved and knuckled down to some properly effective football in the second half to win 2-0.
Stoke at home is certainly no gimmee, but if Chelsea go into that game with the same attitude, they will surely enjoy the same reward and then another Wembley triumph will start to look very much on the cards.
Of course, managers tend to field stronger sides in Cup competitions as they progress through the rounds, but that’s a tactic that can misfire badly, as fans of clubs like Manchester United, Newcastle and Aston Villa will be now be reflecting ruefully.
Gus Poyet is one coach still in love with the FA Cup and it showed in the Sunderland team he picked against Carlisle. Obviously, putting your best side out won’t count for much against better opposition later in the tournament if it just isn’t good enough, but even so the Black Cats (now at home to either Kidderminster or Peterborough) might just have the right man behind them to build momentum for a good Cup run to cheer up their long-suffering fans.
Coral offer 66/1 they go all the way. Stranger things have happened – they did back in 1973 when the old Second Division side famously beat the then mighty Leeds United 1-0 in the final.