It is said that there are 4 stages of development for an angler. First, she is just happy to go fishing and hang around the water. Next, she decides it’s fun to catch as many fish as possible – even minnows count.
Third, she becomes obsessed with catching the biggest fish in the lake, even if it means watching a motionless float for 5 hours while others giggle and land goggle-eye. Finally, later in life, she relaxes with her family on fishing trips and is glad to watch others cast out.
I’m proud to say I’ll never reach Stage 4 and resist a cast in the water. But when “fishing” for the best predictions in an FA Cup tournament, sometimes the minnows of Stages 1 and 2 have to wait. We’re plunging right into the shark-infested waters of Stage 3 today.
Not to say that there isn’t plenty of intrigue among the smaller swimmers in the Football Association bracket. Millwall vs Brighton is a “blue-collar” match as Yankees often put it, 2 clubs which are nearer than farther apart on the UK totem poll even as the latter enjoys placement in the Premiership. Watford vs Crystal Palace comes with a strange handicap – the Hornets must be taken seriously at home in the Quarterfinals, while Palace is a team that could get hot and steal the trophy upon survival in the next match.
Watford isn’t as valuable of a futures pick at (+1200) as a 3/2 moneyline choice next weekend.
But the titans of the last eight are playing in fixtures that begun to look very interesting as of the last week of EPL and Champions League results. Manchester City looked vulnerable against a 2nd “tier” (read: non-Bayern or Dortmund) Bundesliga club in a UEFA leg, and the Sky Blue attack is nearly as exasperating to watch in the Premier League as Liverpool’s. The Citizens have waltzed through the FA Cup preliminaries and are ready to rock, but lo and behold, Quarterfinal host Swansea City no longer appears to be a sure loser.
Meanwhile, Wolves is shivering in the rain. Not literally, but you can’t avoid the pun. Wolverhampton’s Q-final foe United appeared to be finally coming back down to Earth after a fantastic run in January and early February. A leg in Paris promised a prompt dismissal from the UEFA Champions League, and it’s no guarantee that MUFC will be back next season.
Kapow – Rashford breaks Neymar’s heart and wins it on the away-goals tiebreaker in the 90th minute. Long faces on Avenue des Champs-Élysées and new energy for the Red Devils.
Ready to bet against United in the FA Cup? Not me. Let’s have a peak at how the betting odds are reacting to the triumph in Paris.
Wolves vs Manchester United
The Red Devils’ nearly-even line to win without a penalty-kick tiebreaker reflects the club’s current momentum. To make things still worse for Wolves supporters, a dramatic draw in September still looms in the collective memory of the United roster.
Wolverhampton is having a great season in sum total, returning to the Premier League with a bang after a stint in lower-tier competition. While the Red Devils are arguably much more talented carrying names like Paul Pogba and Rashford patrolling the pitch (and David de Gea in goal), a roller-coaster season has established that the favorites can be inept on the attack and vulnerable when defending. Wolves will put it all on the line in a bid for springtime glory.
The Wanderers also looked just fine beating Cardiff City on Matchday 29. The exciting Jota scored his 6th tally of the season and assisted on a beauty in the 2-0 rout.
But it’s a question of whether Wolverhampton’s best form can match United’s best form, even at Molineux Stadium. The action on MUFC to win the FA Cup comes from punters handicapping the Premier League and the Champions League as liberally as the competition at hand. If the Red Devils beat Arsenal on Sunday they’ll be set on fire, and the win would cement their present identity as a spirited and unconquerable road team.
Swansea City vs Man City
Some time ago, London might have handicapped Swansea City in the (+5000) range if it had a hankering. Man City wasn’t just blowing away the pretenders on its schedule. The Sky Blues were slaughtering everyone, including powerful Premier League sides.
City’s striker Sergio Agüero scored a hat trick in a recent 6-0 shut-out of Chelsea. The whipping was so brutal that Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri was said to be on the hot seat partly due to the embarrassment of that loss. Was there a reason to be embarrassed in the first place? City is led by a potentially all-time great lineup with Ederson minding the goal box, and has recently whipped Arsenal and Liverpool in league matches.
In FA Cup play, the Sky Blues have beaten 3 opponents by an aggregate 16-1. No big deal, right?
In the 5th Round a team was able to actually score on City. Newport County managed a tally in the 88th minute of play. But the great German attacker Leroy Sané and midfielder Phil Foden had already scored to give the Sky Blues a commanding 2-0 lead. Foden immediately answered following the rare slip-up.
Swansea City is a fine football club highlighted by up-and-comers like forward Oliver McBurnie and midfielder Daniel James. Man City remains extremely strong and can inflict pain on lesser challengers in tournament play. But it’s no longer assured that next Saturday’s visitors to sizable Liberty Stadium will present a 90+ minute artillery barrage. The Sky Blues’ offense is coming in waves now, making the prospect of a “minnow” swimming into extra time a plausible one.
Manchester City needed late goals from Sané and Raheem Sterling to mount a 3-2 aggregate lead on Schalke 04 in the Champions League Round of 16. Defender Nicolás Otamendi took a crippling red card in the late-going. Following that appearance, City has scored 1 – count it – 1 non-penalty goal in the last 3 matches against Chelsea, West Ham, and Cherries.
The “Draw” moneyline of (+600) for Swansea-vs-City at Bovada Sportsbook becomes more attractive given City’s current struggle to generate a dominant attack in other competitions.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.