Cardiff City looking for FA Cup respite at bruised Bolton
We saw on Wednesday as Sunderland beat Manchester United to reach the Carling Cup final just how well a struggling Premier League side can play when taking time off from the pressures of relegation.
Now the FA Cup becomes a welcome distraction for Swansea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Cardiff and Sunderland (again) as they take on teams from the lower leagues for a place in round four.
Cardiff (7/5) have been in turmoil for much of the season and the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not promise a quick-fix.
But a 2-1 win at Newcastle in round three shows that the new boss is taking the cup seriously and if they had to now face a team from the Championship, they could hardly have asked for a better draw than Bolton, hammered 7-1 by Reading last week.
South Wales rivals Swansea (21/20) may find it trickier at Birmingham, but again they couldn’t really be playing them at a better time straight after the Blues 2-0 home defeat to bottom club Yeovil.
And so it goes on. Crystal Palace (9/4) would not have been relishing their trip to a resurgent Wigan, but the FA Cup holders are another team suddenly down on the floor again after a 3-0 thumping by lowly Doncaster last weekend, although the mood around the DW Stadium has been lightened since by the loan signing of talented midfielder Josh McEachran from Chelsea.
As for Sunderland (2/9), it’s inconceivable that the Black Cats can slip up at home against non-league Kidderminster immediately after their heroics at Old Trafford, isn’t it?
The Harriers did brilliantly to get past Peterborough in round three and the warning for all the above-mentioned Premier League sides is that their success came on the back of their worst league defeat (6-0) for more than 10 years – there’s always the danger of a backlash.
Cup romantics will be wondering whether Bournemouth (8/1) can knock out Liverpool (4/11), 30 years this month after Harry Redknapp famously led them to one of the most famous of all FA Cup victories over Manchester United.
Liverpool, however, have no European distractions and are likely to press the pedal down in this competition (they are 11/2 to win outright with Coral) in tandem with their bid to finish in the top four of the Premier League.
The same applies to Merseyside rivals Everton, 9/1 to win outright and 3/10 to win at League One bottom club Stevenage (9/1).