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Five things learned from the FA Cup

Frank Monkhouse | 30 January 2017

What punters can pick-out from the weekend

Lincoln making history

The Non-League side are the fairy-tale story of the FA Cup this season, and although we all love a bit of romance in this competition, very few believed that they would pull it off against Brighton. They did, and then some, beating the Championship title-chasers 3-1.

What made that victory all the sweeter was the fact Lincoln fell behind on 24-minutes, and went into the break 1-0 down. Second-half goals from Power, Tomori OG and Robinson meant the minnows will be playing in the last 16 of the FA Cup for the first time in 115 years. Plenty will fancy drawing them in the next round, but we found out Danny Cowley’s Imps have the stomach for a fight.

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Sutton are serious

Not to be undone, Sutton made headlines on Sunday themselves by knocking Leeds out of the FA Cup, courtesy of a 1-0 result. This year’s tournament is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable in recent times, and we saw another Non-League side defy the odds. After Leicester showed dreams do come true in football last season, who is to say one of these smaller teams can’t pull off an FA Cup win?

What punters have learned, more so than anyone else this weekend, is that picking hot-favourites in this competition will get you nowhere. Instead, perhaps getting in the spirit of things and backing an underdog to go all the way may be a better option. Jamie Collins rifled in a second-half penalty to send the Elland Road side out on their ear.

United second-string good enough

Manchester United laid down their claims for this season’s trophy when beating Wigan at Old Trafford courtesy of a 4-0. The Red Devils gave a starting slot to a host of fringe players, but they showed their worth by getting the job done in style, with Fellaini, Smalling, Mikhitaryan and Schweinsteiger on the scoresheet.

To fight the good fight in both league and cup, you need a deep pool of talented players at your disposal, including fringe men who are ready and able to step up to the mark when called upon. We have seen many times in the past favourites going out when their young-guns choke. For evidence of this see Liverpool. United, however, look to have real strength in depth.

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Chelsea seeing double

Another example of the worth of a big squad is Chelsea, who slipped past a potential banana skin fixture against Brentford, without incident. Oozing class at Stamford Bridge, Willian broke the deadlock on 14-minutes, and that opened the floodgates.

Pedro, Ivanovic and Batshuayi finished the match with goals and manager Antonio Conte knows now that he has plenty in reserve, should he need it. The Blues had a real energy about them on Saturday and, based on that first-half display, they could have scored plenty more and made a mockery of the match. They demonstrated the class of champions by knowing when their opponent was done.

Liverpool look licked

If we didn’t know it already, it was certainly one of the main things learned from the weekend, and that was that Liverpool look to have run their race this season. After losing to Swansea in the league, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup at the semi-final stage by Southampton, before Klopp and co saw their unconvincing FA Cup challenge squashed by Wolves.

The Reds look devoid of confidence at the moment and we saw that, as an attacking force, they show no self-belief, too easily picking a safe backwards pass over a more aggressive forward one. Beaten 2-1 by Wolves on Saturday, Liverpool were behind inside 60-seconds and only hit back through Origi once the match was over as a contest.

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