It’s the Oldest Cup Competition in the World! But it’s fighting for relevance in the modern game! But third-round weekend! Cardboard FA Cups covered in tinfoil! Local butchers doing horrible-looking sausages in plucky local side’s colours! Games on free-to-air TV that your dad still calls “terrestrial” despite that word being chiefly meaningless in 21st century broadcasting! Isn’t it? Hmm? Marvellous.
But who’s going to win the most important of the unimportant trophies this time around? Here are the quarter-finalists ranked according to the best prices available at oddschecker.com as of… now.
1) Manchester City
The FA Cup is actually the one domestic competition City haven’t dominated in the Guardiola Era. They’ve won four of the last five Premier League titles and six of the last nine Carabaos, but only one FA Cup in the last decade. They’re certainly not doing this year’s competition on easy mode, either, having dispatched Chelsea (five finals in last six years) and Arsenal (runaway Premier League leaders, four FA Cups in last nine years) in their first two rounds. A routine win at Bristol City in round five barely altered their price, but Spurs’ exit and a favourable quarter-final draw saw them shorten inexorably towards even money.
2) Manchester United
The biggest movers after round three consolidated second spot in the betting with a routine home win over Reading while crosstown rivals City sorted out Arsenal to make everyone’s lives that little bit easier. Still very much on for a Liverpool-esque domestic cup double having won the Carabao, with daft talk of a Quadruple now also rearing its head. West Ham briefly threatened to spoil things before United produced a thrilling late rally and were then promptly drawn at home once again for the 873rd FA Cup draw in a row.
There they sit, snugly in that little sweet spot where the assumption is that because a club is clear of relegation danger and unlikely to qualify for Europe, they might fancy a crack at winning an actual trophy. It rarely ever actually works out like that but Brighton do seem capable of beating any team on a given day, especially if that team happens to be Liverpool who they’ve now beaten twice this year, once in the league and thrillingly last-gaspily in the FA Cup. Safely into the quarter-finals after winning at Stoke, playing lovely football and absolutely in with a great chance of landing a first ever major pot having landed the plum last-eight draw of Grimsby at home.
Up to fourth favourites now after taking Leeds down 2-0 in round five, while the Leicester and Spurs f***-ups also shift them up the list significantly. Similar territory to Brighton really, where they’ve got an absolute free hit at the FA Cup and find themselves three matches from glory. But Manchester United away is, with all due respect to everyone involved, probably not as good a quarter-final draw as Grimsby at home.
The Championship leaders needed a late, late goal to see off Fleetwood in round five, but now need only to tick off the formality of beating Manchester City away to find themselves heading to Wembley for the semi-final.
6) Sheffield United
Found Wrexham a far tougher proposition than Spurs at their most heroically trophy-averse. The best thing about Sheffield United’s alarmingly straightforward 1-0 win over a Spurs team that absolutely could not be arsed was that the Blades had made eight changes themselves. Now face Blackburn in the last eight with a trip to Wembley the prize on offer.
Impressive winners over 2021 winners Leicester in round five, and avoided the big guns in the last-eight draw. Either they or Sheffield United will be FA Cup semi-finalists which has a lovely 1920s vibe to it.
Produced a stunning upset to win at what technically for now remains Premier League Southampton. Brighton up next as Grimsby find themselves one game from an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, in accordance with the prophecy.