In most tournament scenarios, the team that is more likely to win the next game or match is more likely to win the event outright. That’s usually the way it works, right?
For instance, the Gonzaga Bulldogs were touted by Las Vegas handicappers at extreme minus-odds for the West Coast Conference postseason hoops tournament. Saint Mary’s upset the Zags in the final. Yet it’s plain to see that Gonzaga still has the better chance of reaching the Final Four.
But when the betting odds are more subtle, sometimes there’s an exception to the rule. Sometimes the team that has a slightly-better chance to prevail in the short term is not the superior futures pick to win a bracket, even at longer odds.
Watford is a Bovada Sportsbook moneyline favorite to beat visiting Crystal Palace in Saturday’s FA Cup quarterfinal at Vicarage Road. I’m not necessarily calling the Hornets a bad pick. They could easily win the match or advance on a tiebreaker.
Palace, however, is the club more likely to get on a cracking streak and steal the FA Cup.
Let’s take a closer look at the Hornets-Eagles match in addition to the Millwall vs Brighton showdown in a Sunday quarterfinal.
Watford vs Crystal Palace
Managers have gotten past the “wait and see” chapter of stocking their lineups for the FA Cup. Battles between Premier League sides will look like typical Premier League matches, just with the added tension of having so much on the line in the last eight.
Crystal Palace is often seen in ordinary formations, with a 4-4-3 in the 5th Round of FA Cup play. However, the similarities with the favorites from Man City and Manchester United stop there. Palace is a zonal defending team known to play a cautious, complicated style for opponents to try to adjust to.
Doncaster experienced a slow death on Sunday 2/17 as the Eagles parried, defended, and gave up 11 corner kicks while overpowering the League One upstarts with superior experience and striking.
Jeffrey Schlupp, the versatile 26-year-old, got CPFC off on the proper foot (literally) in the 8th minute.
As for Watford, the Hornets are having an outstanding season and could be on pace to place in the top half of the Premier League table. Argentinian midfielder Roberto Pereyra has scored 6 goals in 27 appearances in 2018-19.
Striker Andre Gray started the club’s recent 1-0 league conquest over Everton on the sidelines, then was worked seamlessly into a 4-2-2-2 formation and scored the winner in the 2nd half.
In the 5th Round, Watford struggled to get past the Queens Park Rangers, but the club was on the road. As hosts the Hornets are a stinging group, and prior to lines coming out for the Q-Final round, I successfully forecasted skipper Javi Gracia’s team as the favorite over CPFC with a plus-125-to-150 line to win. (They’re at (+140) now.)
Does Watford possess the kind of form necessary to beat likely opponents Manchester United and Man City in the semifinals and the final, though? Nope.
Palace has the better shot to confound and confuse the Red Devils and Sky Blues on the way to lifting the trophy, even if things might get hairy this Saturday at Vicarage Road.
Millwall vs Brighton
It is widely acknowledged that Millwall’s Lions are much more difficult to beat at The Den than when they are stuck playing at another venue. But Millwall was able to eliminate AFC Wimbledon in the 5th Round in spite of playing on the road.
The inconsistent Wombles found themselves beaten in much the same fashion as Everton had been beaten weeks prior, with Lions skipper Neil Harris’ side stubbornly defending, fighting for every header and contested pass, and advancing into the opposing box by hook or crook.
Left-back Murray Wallace scored the winner in just the 5th minute of play.
Brighton advanced to the Q-Final with a relatively easy win over Derby County at Falmer Stadium, out-shooting the Rams 18-8 to 11-3 despite only possessing the football for 46% of the match.
The Seagulls have their fair share of problems outside of a fine FA Cup showing. Chris Hughton’s club is currently 15th in the Premiership and in danger of demotion if things continue to slide downhill.
It does not seem that Millwall is a “minnow” capable of swimming all the way to the final. But Brighton is a fantastic draw for the Lions in the quarterfinals. While the Seagulls are also fortunate to not have drawn Manchester City, they can still lose at The Den just as Everton did.
Millwall’s odds to upset Brighton without penalty kicks are hovering in the 2.5-to-1 range, though as of Wednesday morning 3/13 the market is not available at Bovada.
FA Cup Quarterfinals: Final Predictions and Picks
I’m not sure if Crystal Palace is a good bet to beat Watford in regulation + added time (+210). But, paradoxically, the Eagles are a fine futures “sleeper” pick to lift the tournament trophy at (+1400).
Meanwhile, Bovada has been offering (+240)-ish odds on a draw and a tiebreaker occurring in the Millwall-Brighton fixture. I’m loving that bet as I believe the Lions will fight, scrap, and defend their way into a 1-1 or even 0-0 final score and a round of penalties to determine who will qualify.
Check out our previews of this weekend’s FA Cup quarterfinal matches between Wolves and Manchester United and also Swansea City vs Man City.
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.