Have Sheffield United missed the boat against Fulham?
When Premier League strugglers Fulham (1/2 with Coral to be relegated) drew League One side Sheffield United in the 4th Round, many thought, me included, that this was fertile territory for an FA Cup shock.
That feeling was accentuated when Cottagers boss Rene Meulensteen made 11 changes for the trip to Yorkshire and it was beginning to look like a foregone conclusion when the Blades took the lead in conditions so atrocious that the game was almost called off.
But Fulham, helped, it is true, by United being reduced to ten men after 52 minutes, dominated the second half even more than they had dominated the first half and it was no more than they deserved when Hugo Rodallega equalised.
So the question is, have Nigel Clough’s team missed the boat? Coral bet 8/13 Fulham, 9/2 Sheffield United (11/4 it’s all square after 90 minutes) and you would still not rule out the lowest ranked club still left in the competition springing a surprise against a team now lying bottom of the Premier League pile.
But United themselves are in a pretty bad way. Cup efforts aside – and they did brilliantly to knock Aston Villa out in the 3rd Round – they are really struggling to get out from their own drop zone (Coral go 7/2 they are relegated) and their cause was hardly helped by a 3-0 defeat to Crewe at the weekend.
Fulham meanwhile, though also trounced 3-0 by Southampton on Saturday, have more reasons to be optimistic following the arrival of several new faces in the transfer window, most notably Lewis Holtby, on loan from Spurs, and Konstantinos Mitroglou for £11m from Olympiakos.
Mitroglou, a powerful, free-scoring striker, is a real coup for Meulensteen, who, by off-loading Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz, also seems to be making a statement about the type of personnel and style of football he feels he needs for Fulham’s survival bid.
We will have to wait and see which, if any, of the new signings are pitched in for this replay, but after overseeing 75% of the possession at Bramall Lane, Meulensteen will surely be confident of a win whoever he puts on the park.
Against a higher-placed and more confident side than Sheffield United, you might worry for Fulham, but I think they’ll get through this okay, maybe 3-0 or 3-1 (both 14/1).