By Antony Jordan
And then there were eight! We’re down to the Quarter Final stage of the oldest cup competition in world football – The FA Cup – and the remaining eight sides will be desperate to secure victory this weekend to book their place on the hallowed turf of Wembley for the Semi Finals.
There are some thrilling matches being played this weekend too with the highlight being the clash of top flight sides Chelsea and Manchester United, while there is still the chance of some cup upsets too as Arsenal face non-league side Lincoln City and fellow North Londoners Tottenham take on third tier Millwall.
Who’ll progress to Wembley this weekend? We preview all four matches with online sportsbook Bet365.com to provide our top FA Cup picks!
The final eight stage FA Cup clash at Stamford Bridge will be the second time that Antonio Conte’s Chelsea and Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United sides have clashed this season and it was the former Chelsea boss who came off the worst in that previous battle. Conte’s side struck in the first minute and cruised to a 4-0 victory on home soil as United were still in the phase of adjusting to life under Mourinho. The away side in this tie have certainly done that now and we are confident that they will be up for this game as they aim to return to Wembley where they recently lifted the EFL Cup title by beating Southampton 3-2 in the final.
United are competing for a treble this season as they hope to lift the FA Cup and Europa League in addition to their already claimed cup and this may cause them some issues in this Monday night game as they only arrived back in the UK from drawing 1-1 with Rostov in Russia on Friday, while Chelsea have had a whole week in which to relax following their 2-1 win over West Ham that saw them remain ten points clear at the top of the Premier League as they aim to lift this title this season.
Both sides are unbeaten in ten matches coming into this massive tie, although Chelsea’s eight wins and two draws is slightly better than their guests seven wins and three draws, but this and one other thing gives them the edge for this match. The second thing that puts Chelsea ahead in our eyes is the fact that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is banned for the visiting team and while they have players that can score goals for them, the Swede is the man for the biggest of games. This match is certainly this and even without him we see this top drawer clash being a closely contested game, but we are backing a home win by the narrowest of margins.
Our best Chelsea v Man United bet is back Chelsea to progress to the FA Cup Semi Finals @ 1.85 with Bet365.com.
Saturday evening sees the Premier League and National League sides, who are separated by a massive 88 places in the English football pyramid, meet on the football pitch for the first time with The Gunners hurting from their 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League and the minnows on top of the world as they look to be promoted to League Two and now get to face one of English football’s giants for a place at Wembley!
Lincoln City have been involved in the cup since October when they entered at the fourth qualifying round and they have earned their place in the last eight stage with some fantastic performances, including seeing off Championship sides Ipswich and promotion contenders Brighton in rounds three and four before defeating EPL side Burnley in the last round, and now they face their toughest test yet. You can be sure that this is what the cup is all about and there will be no players any more motivated in the world this weekend than at The Emirates Stadium, but can The Imps continue to shock the world by making Wembley?
The Gunners have seen off sides from the Championship, Premier League and National League to make it to the Quarter Finals with Preston, Southampton and Sutton United beaten in the third, fourth and fifth rounds respectively with the concession of just one goal. However, they will be shell shocked coming into this match with back to back losses to Liverpool and Bayern Munich in their last two games. The big question is can they pick themselves up for this match?
Of course, Arsenal should be able to do so with their far superior squad and ability, but with a bleak set of results to their name, a heavy loss on this ground during the week and the fact that they could only beat Sutton – who are 29 points worse off than Lincoln in the National League – 2-0 in their last FA Cup game we can see this game being far from easy against their pumped up visitors. We do not believe that Lincoln will win this game, but our pick of this clash with the biggest gap between the sides does focus on the non-league team.
We are backing Lincoln +3 (Lincoln to win, draw or lose by one or two goals) v Arsenal at odds of 2.37 in the Bet365 Sportsbook!
Sunday sees another FA Cup clash in North London as just down the road from where Arsenal will have hosted Lincoln the evening before Tottenham Hotspur welcome Millwall to White Hart Lane in a London Derby. There are 47 places between these two sides with the home team second only to Chelsea in the top flight and Millwall sixth in the third tier looking for a return to The Championships via the Play Offs this season, but it is the lower ranked side who have the better recent history in this competition. The Lions reached the Semi Finals of this competition in 2013 when they were beaten the eventual champions Wigan and this is year sooner than the last time that Tottenham made Wembley in the FA Cup when they were thumped 5-1 by Chelsea in 2012. Who’ll be the next of these sides to return to the home of English football?
Bet365 certainly believe that it’ll be Tottenham and it is hard to disagree with them too as Tottenham cruised past Aston Villa and Fulham in the third and fifth rounds, although they did need to score twice in the last two minutes to see off fourth tier side Wycombe Wanderers in the fourth round. In addition to this they have Harry Kane firing on all cylinders with eight goals in his last four matches, but the visiting team will not be worried with wins over EPL sides Bournemouth, Watford and Leicester to their names already.
We expect this to be a great match between two committed sides and with Tottenham not playing for a week after this match we expect that they’ll field a strong side to secure their place at Wembley too. This will give them the edge and they’ll see off the League One side thanks to the man of the moment, Harry Kane.
Our money is on Tottenham to beat Millwall with Harry Kane to score the first goal of the match @ 3.20 at Bet365.
The final game that we’re looking at from the FA Cup Quarter Finals is the first match to kick off on Saturday as third bottom of the EPL Middlesbrough welcome third in the top flight Man City to The Riverside looking to repeat their heroics of 2015 when they sent City crashing out of this competition at the fourth round. They did draw the first meeting of this season at The Etihad in November with an injury time equaliser, but with the pressure growing on the club and manager Aitor Karanka following their slip into the relegation zone is this a match that they really want or need?
After seeing off Championship side Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 in the third round ‘Boro have needed late goals to defeat sides from the third and fourth tiers to progress to this point and while they have lost just one match on home soil since mid-December they have not faced anyone inside the top six of the league during this time.
This will be of a boost to City as they are likely to rest players for this match with the vital Champions League knockout stage second leg in Monaco coming up on Wednesday and you can be sure that Pep Guardiola wants to move into the last eight of that competition more than he wishes to defeat Middlesbrough. However, he is sure to rest players for this match and this will be good for the side as his team struggled during the week against Stoke in the EPL as they could only draw 0-0 and some young players looking to show that they are capable of playing the first team on a more regular basis will be motivated to push City forward. One of these players likely to start is young striker Kelechi Iheanacho who will give Sergio Aguero a rest before the European fixture and he has already netted five times in four FA Cup appearances. City are likely to win this match but do not offer much value to do so, but there is value on the 20 year old striker to net a goal and this is where we are betting!