Wigan and Sheffield United an outside shout to contest FA Cup final
Giant-killings have been the story of this season’s FA Cup – a fact only further reinforced by the presence of two teams from outside the Premier League reaching the semis.
Coral have opened a special market which says Championship club and holders Wigan Athletic (8/1), and League One side Sheffield United (16/1) will continue the shocks by contesting the final. Punters who fancy odds-on 4/9 trophy favourites Arsenal and Hull (7/2) to be slain should take the hugely attractive price of 14/1.
The general consensus may be the hallowed turf of Wembley is an occasion that will prove too much for the Latics and Blades against top-flight opposition. It is a conservative view, however, which pays no heed to the remarkable feats accomplished by Uwe Rosler and Nigel Clough.
Manchester City and Aston Villa are just two names dumped out of the world’s oldest knockout football competition, by plucky pair Wigan and United respectively. They have defied the odds before, so they can do so again.
Granted, Arsenal fans are desperate for Arsene Wenger to deliver and end their trophy drought, which now stretches nine years, but their form is poor coming into this contest. There is a wide gulf between the guileful Gunners and the Latics, who they relegated mere days after Roberto Martinez steered the latter to FA Cup glory last term.
It is a gap Wigan, who are 7/2 to advance, have bridged before, though. Their current unbeaten run in this competition has encompassed two victories over Premier League title favourites Manchester City – one of those at Wembley in the last final.
Ben Watson, who has the odd goal against Arsenal on his CV, will be unable to reproduce stoppage time magic again, however, because of a broken leg. Look to attack-minded midfield trio Jordi Gomez (11/2 to score anytime), the recently returned Shaun Maloney (4/1) and James McClean (13/2) for other Latics players who have previously shot down the Gunners, by breaching their defence.
There may be two divisions’ difference between the Tigers and Blades, but there is nothing to choose between either of them in past FA Cup meetings. United, a 9/4 chance to reach the final, have in fact had the better of recent league encounters, winning four of the last eight and holding Hull on two other occasions.
Clough will once again ask players like frontman Chris Porter (11/4 to score in the semi), right back John Brayford (12/1) and set piece threat Harry Maguire (8/1) – who have all contributed so much to United’s cup run – to go to the well.
Steve Bruce cannot call on his January signings up front, Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, because both are cup-tied. Other forward options in Tigers ranks have not impressed, and influential winger Robbie Brady is also out through injury.
Neutrals remain enthralled by the romance of the FA Cup. The Blades and Latics will look to blueprint upsets against Nottingham Forest and Man City respectively, and so should punters, ahead of the semis. Take 14/1 on a Football League final.