The FA Cup third round remains English football’s most compelling couple of days, though from a punters’ perspective, the competition has become rewardingly predictable – four teams have won 20 of the 24 finals contested since 1992 – a success ratio of 83 per cent.
Backing Chelsea, currently priced at 7/1, (bet365) or last season’s winners Arsenal (7/1, Stan James) over this period would have offered astute punters a better-than-evens chance of success.
Add Manchester United (8/1, BetVictor.com) and Liverpool (9/1, Skybet) into the mix and almost all bases are covered.
Arsenal’s odds are likely to shorten following Saturday’s third-round tie against Sunderland at the Emirates.
The Gunners are 2/7 (Ladbrokes) to win through to the fourth round at the first time of asking, whereas the visitors are quoted at 11/1 (Winner.com) to cause an unlikely upset.
Paddy Power quote Arsenal at 7/5 to win without conceding, while Ladbrokes chalk 10/3 against Olivier Giroud opening the scoring.
Meanwhile, despite their 11/1 starting price (Paddy Power), Sheffield United have an outstanding opportunity to cause an FA Cup upset when they face Manchester United on Saturday.
Louis van Gaal’s troops have won only once in their last nine outings, hardly form to worry a Blades side that has secured four victories in their last five contests.
Punters who suspect the Blades are capable of winning could be in for a profitable afternoon as Skybet post 22/1 against them emerging victorious following a drawn opening half and Winner.com chalk 20/1 against a 1-0 away success.
Not surprisingly, Chelsea are 1/4 (Ladbrokes) to overhaul Scunthorpe (12/1, Winner.com) at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea already look a different proposition under Guus Hiddink and their unusually brittle defence is unlikely to offer as many opportunities to opposing forwards as it did during the final weeks of Jose Mourinho’s reign.
Punters who concur may fancy BetVictor’s 5/4 odds for The Iron to win when handed a two-goal start, while Stan James’s frothy-looking 7/1 for Scunthorpe to secure a replay by registering a score draw cannot be discounted.
Bet365 mark the draw at 11/2, but for those who believe Scunthorpe can go one better, Paddy Power post a massive 40/1 against them winning 1-0.
Tottenham’s mouth-watering duel against Leicester on Sunday pits two sides with a great chance of winning the cup together in what promises to be an end-to-end contest.
Spurs are an attractive 14/1 (BetVictor.com) to lift the trophy this season, while the Foxes are quoted at a lengthy-looking 40/1 (Skybet).
It’s worth recalling that Leicester beat Tottenham 2-1 in the cup last season, but as they enjoy home advantage, it’s Spurs who kick off as bet365’s 10/11 favourites to progress at the first time of asking.
Leicester (4/1, Paddy Power) have been a revelation this term, but if Spurs play as well as they did against Everton last Sunday, this is a tie from which they should emerge victorious and at 14/1 (Stan James) to win the cup this term, they’re certainly worthy of each-way support.
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Willian to score for Chelsea at any time during the 90 minutes: 15/8, Coral
Chelsea to keep a clean sheet: 10/11, Skybet
Spurs v Leicester to produce more than 3.5 goals: 2/1, Ladbrokes