Man City and Stoke selected

We make Manchester City and Stoke our teams to back for glory in this season's FA Cup.

Last Updated: 02/01/13 at 21:22 Post Comment

We hope for a repeat of the 2011 FA Cup final.

We hope for a repeat of the 2011 FA Cup final.

There have been five winners of the Premier League throughout the two decades of its history, and realistically we know at the start of any season there are a maximum of four sides in with a chance, writes Ben Coley.

This is reflected in the betting year-on-year, and in the current climate it's essentially 16/1 or bigger bar three. Only Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea started the season with what looked like any sort of chance, and that's precisely how things are playing out.

By its very nature, the FA Cup is an altogether more difficult competition to predict. A straight knockout, random draw format will always lend itself to upsets, so it stands to reason that betting for the FA Cup should be more open than that for the Premier League.

However, the discrepancy is surely too big when we consider that in the last 17 years; only Everton and Portsmouth have managed to upset what we'd call the top-five clubs of that particular season.

So while my colleague Nick Hext - who has previous - will endeavour to find the best value outsider, I'm looking towards the head of the betting in the hope to pick out the winner.

And that search ends with Manchester City, who look every inch worthy favourites.

For starters, City have every incentive to take this competition seriously. Last year they suffered third-round elimination at the hands of fierce rivals United and they'll want to put that to bed, while having been knocked out of the Champions League every bit of potential silverware surely has to be considered important.

Their recent record in the FA Cup confirms my suspicion that City's aim in this new era is to win as much as they can as quickly as they can - they won the trophy in 2011 and were unfortunate to both be paired with and lose to United last term.

This time around lady luck has been much kinder, and City should have all the tools required to beat Watford and progress to the fourth round.

And, crucially, their task could've been made even easier by the time that draw is made. Chelsea - whose record in the competition is worthy of the utmost respect - face a potentially tricky trip to Southampton while United travel to West Ham. Co-fourth favourites Arsenal won't be looking forward to a trip to Swansea, and the betting could have a very different look to it come Monday morning.

Of course, all of these sides could quite obviously progress but Arsenal's trophy drought makes them easy to oppose anyway, while somewhat surprisingly United haven't reached the final of this competition since 2007 and haven't won it since 2004.

Even more remarkably, Tottenham haven't made the FA Cup final in over 20 years and while history can't be used as a definitive guide to a side's chances, I just wonder whether their crucial top-four battle will be prioritised, especially given a squad which lacks a little depth.

Quite simply, City and Chelsea look by far the most likely winners of the FA Cup and with the latter having a tricky third-round tie ahead of them, I'm inclined to back City.

I'll be very surprised if they're not considerably shorter after the third round and although we'd like some luck with the draw, it's clear that City need only really fear two sides and they could both be gone early on.

It's all a little bit of history repeating for our value selection, writes Nick Hext.

Stoke, lost 1-0 to Manchester City in the 2011 final but Betting Zone followers were already quids in after the Potters were tipped up each-way at 66/1 prior to the third round.

I will show support for Tony Pulis' men again and it would certainly be good news for us if they met the Blues again at Wembley.

There is even more to like about Stoke now and they have made an impact in the competition for each of the last three seasons - reaching the quarter-finals in each of the two campaigns sandwiching their final appearance.

Crystal Palace are the opponents in the third round and we don't think the Championship promotion contenders will pose too much of a problem with Eagles boss Ian Holloway making clear his focus is on the league.

Pulis has spoken about his desire to qualify for the Europa League again and the FA Cup provides the best chance for the Staffordshire outfit to achieve that aim.

Stoke are currently ninth in the Premier League - five points behind fifth-placed Arsenal and 11 points clear of the relegation zone - so there are certainly no worries about them exiting the top-flight,

There is still some hope that the Britannia Stadium club can qualify for Europe through the league but that would rely on them overhauling Swansea, West Brom, Everton and Arsenal - although Chelsea winning the Capital One Cup would make sixth enough to get in.

I would fancy Everton and Arsenal to finish in the top six so the FA Cup really should be focused on by the Potters for the remainder of the campaign.

The Britannia Stadium is a fortress with Stoke the only side not to lose at home in the Premier League this season so it's safe to say that no team would fancy a trip to the Potteries.

Results on the road obviously don't provide as much to write home about but six draws from 11 away league matches prove that they are more than capable of avoiding defeat.


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