The race for Premier League superiority took a back seat this past weekend as the FA Cup rolled back into town.
With many of the big names still in this year’s competition, avoiding an embarrassing defeat to lower-league opposition was on the agenda for many.
In a week in which the FA announced that cup replays could soon be a thing of the past, the likes of Shrewsbury Town – who faced 11-time winners Manchester United – failed to earn lucrative rematches against high-flying opposition, as they were brushed aside by the Premier League giants.
Always one of the most eagerly anticipated dates in the footballing calendar, many will have been looking to various betting sites over the fifth-round weekend, as they searched for the best odds on a potential cup upset.
With this year’s FA Cup looking to be one of the most competitive for many years due to the amount of Premier League teams still involved, it may well be that placing money on a proverbial underdog proves fruitful.
So which are the best betting sites for football fans? Betway currently place Chelsea as favourites to claim the trophy after their thrashing of Manchester City, with Championship duo Hull City and Reading seen as rank outsiders, despite impressive displays in forcing a replay with Arsenal and defeating top-flight side West Brom respectively.
In what was billed as the tie of the round, last year’s Premier League champions Chelsea took on potential heirs to their throne, Manchester City, on Sunday afternoon. Despite their lowly league position, Chelsea, who have seen a marked improvement under Gus Hiddink, found their task made easier for them after City manager Manuel Pellegrini named an almost unrecognisable side, with a trip to Kiev in the Champions League taking priority for the Chilean.
An even first half saw the two sides go into the break level after goals from Chelsea striker Diego Costa and City’s Frenchman David Faupala, who marked his debut for the club with a goal.
However, Chelsea’s experience and superiority in possession told in a dominant second half in which the home side produced four unanswered goals. Eden Hazard was amongst the scorers, in what was a much improved display from the out-of-sorts Belgian.
It was a disappointing weekend for high-flying Tottenham, who took on Premier League and London rivals Crystal Palace, in a game which saw Emmanuel Adebayor return to his former club. A single goal from Palace defender Martin Kelly was enough to put his side through to the next round where they will come up against Reading at the Madejski Stadium.
West Ham and Everton are two more sides who progressed to the next round, both having sealed comfortable victories against Blackburn Rovers and Bournemouth respectively. Another masterclass from French maestro Dimitri Payet helped the Hammers set up a tasty-looking tie against Manchester United in the quarter-finals.
With the Hammers suffering from a striker shortage currently, new signing Emmanuel Emenike stepping up with two goals will certainly have pleased manager Slaven Bilic.
For Everton, a home tie against Chelsea is the reward for their victory on the south coast. The final tie of the round saw Watford claim a nervy victory against Leeds United. The winner of the replay between Hull City and Arsenal awaits the Hornets.
With many keen on reigniting some of the old FA Cup magic from years gone by, as the tournament looks to be heading for a new format, the actions of Pellegrini have done nothing to dispel the current downward spiral in which the famous tournament is heading.
However, with many big names placing emphasis on competing for this year’s trophy, this could well be the spark that reignites the FA Cup flame.