Forest and QPR out to surprise the Premier League big boys in FA Cup
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert said the other day that he believed most top-flight managers, if they were being honest, would be quite happy to do without the FA Cup, such is the distraction from the competition that really matters to them – the Premier League.
As far as the Premiership clubs themselves are concerned, that’s probably true, at least until we get to the quarter-finals and beyond when everybody’s getting a sniff of Wembley. But ask the fans whether they fancy a good Cup run and you can be sure that the answer would be a resounding yes.
Villa (4/9) probably won’t be troubled by Division One strugglers Sheffield United even if Lambert doesn’t field a full-strength team, but several of the Premiership big boys might come unstuck against Championship high-flyers if they take it less than seriously.
Sam Allardyce is probably one of those managers who wouldn’t shed a bucketload of tears if relegation-threatened West Ham were to fall at the first hurdle at Nottingham Forest (6/5),
Stoke (21/20) will also have a fight on their hands at home to Leicester, but Mark Hughes’s men haven’t been getting the rub of the green in recent games and may take it out on the Championship leaders.
And Southampton (4/7), one of the Premiership sides without realistic prospects of either qualifying for Europe or getting dragged into a relegation battle, should prove too slick for Burnley.
Predicting where the shocks will come is difficult – otherwise they wouldn’t be shocks – but I do have this sneaky feeling that Harry Redknapp, a man with a history of engineering FA Cup giant-killings, might pull another rabbit out of the hat with QPR (8/1 to win, 7/2 to draw) at Everton.
The real romance of the competition, of course, lies much further down the divisions to where Kidderminster , Grimsby and Macclesfield ply their trade in the Skrill Premier.
All three non-league clubs have been drawn at home and it would be no great surprise to see at least one of them get through to Round 4.
Kidderminster were thrashed 6-0 by leaders Luton last Saturday – their heaviest defeat in more than ten years – and though their home record is decent, they will do well to bounce back against League One promotion hopefuls Peterborough (17/20).
Grimsby are two places above Kidderminster in fourth, but lost 3-2 at home to mid-table Macclesfield at the weekend and the Cheshire side then went on to win 3-0 at bottom club Hyde on New Year’s Day.
Huddersfield (8/11), comfortable in mid-table in the Championship, should have too much for Grimsby on Saturday, and it might be left to Macclesfield (4/1) to carry the banner for the non-leaguers against a Sheffield Wednesday outfit that has won just one game in 12 on the road this season and still hovering perilously close to the relegation zone, despite two decent results over the holiday period.