The Magic of the FA Cup: Will There Be a Huge Shock Result in the Fifth Round?

FA Cup
Credit: Philosophy Football via flickr

If you search on YouTube for ‘FA Cup best bits’ or something similar, the vast majority of the search results will focus on some of the mind-blowing feats of giant-killing that have occurred through the years.

From Wrexham downing Arsenal in 1991 to Wycombe beating Leicester courtesy of a goal from a striker signed using Teletext (remember that!?) just 24 hours prior, the FA Cup has managed to maintain its magnificence despite increasing efforts from the Football Association to cheapen the competition. Lads, nobody wants the third round to be scheduled immediately after the festive fixtures, nor do we want the semi-finals to be held at Wembley. The famous trophy may have been rusted slightly, but it still sparkles in the sunlight.

This weekend’s fifth round offers ample opportunity for a shock result or two. The severity of the upset differs from match to match, of course, but there is a chance that we might just witness a headline-making result this weekend. Punters, take note.

So with that in mind, who is most likely to secure an unlikely cupset?

Hull City against Chelsea?

You can get the best part of 20/1 on Hull City winning at Stamford Bridge, and while those odds reflect the relative likelihood of that we must comment that stranger things have happened.

On Tuesday Chelsea entertain Barcelona in the Champions League last 16, and there are no prizes for guessing where their attention will lie. Antonio Conte’s team selection for Friday night’s encounter with Hull will reflect the lack of importance the Blues are bestowing upon the FA Cup at this particular time.

Of course, Chelsea’s selection of fringe players is hardly lacking in quality. The likes of Dany Drinkwater, Cesc Fabregas and Pedro could all start, while Conte will presumably field either Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud up front. It’s a side that could give any other a run for their money.

But there can be no doubt that Hull have improved under Nigel Adkins: they have lost just two of their last seven and kept four clean sheets along the way.

The basic ingredients of an upset are there, but Chelsea’s second-string side should still have too much firepower for the plucky Tigers.

Coventry City against Brighton?

Two teams with arguably bigger fish to fry in the league will meet at the Ame Stadium, and if Brighton do take their eyes off the ball then a chance will present itself to Coventry.

The Sky Blues are a beleaguered old bunch, but they took tens of thousands of fans to Wembley for last season’s Checkatrade Trophy final and 8,000 to MK Dons in the fourth round of this competition, so they will certainly be well supported.

Premier League survival is top of Brighton’s wish list this term, as promotion from League Two is the modus operandi of Coventry, but at the same time both teams will want to win this game.

Brighton have taken 18 points in 13 home matches this term; Coventry have landed the same on their travels in 16 away dates. For that reason, we have to fancy a home win here.

Rochdale against Tottenham?

It’s quite possible that Mauricio Pochettino will make eleven changes to his normal starting eleven here; and yet it remains probable that his side will still prove too good for League One Rochdale.

If you think about it, he has an abundance of options all over the park, with the likes of Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela, Mousa Sissoko and Harry Winks all possible starters here.

Rochdale’s one advantage would have been their pitch, which resembled a bunker on a golf course against Millwall in the fourth round. But after criticism from Pochettino, the Rochdale chairman has splashed out £500,000 on a new playing surface – and thus snuffed out pretty much any chance his team had of beating their Premier League opponents.

Wigan Athletic against Manchester City?

On paper at least the notion of Wigan beating Manchester City on Monday night is laughable, but in reality they may just have more of a chance than given credit.

Pep Guardiola’s next three fixtures after this match are Arsenal in the League Cup final and in the Premier League, plus Chelsea, so in order of importance this encounter falls a bit lower down the pecking order. The likes of Gabriel Jesus and Vincent Kompany may start, but this won’ be a first-choice City side by any means.

Wigan have already defeated two Premier League sides at home on their way to the fifth round, and while their league results have tailed off of late you know that’s because the players are focused solely on this fixture for the time being.

It’s a bit of a throwaway sentiment, but stranger things than Wigan winning here really have happened.