After the third-round massacre only
Portsmouth look to have the strength to challenge the big four
Given the massacre punters suffered in the third round of the FA
Cup - when 15 of 22 odds-on favourites failed to win - it is not surprising
market moves have been thin on the ground before the fourth round of the
competition this weekend. However, bookmakers will be a little concerned that
the "big four" in the Premier League all made it through to the last 32 and
collectively the four are now quoted at 3-10 (Boyle Sports) to win the
Manchester United have assumed favourite status in the outright
market, trading at 7-2 (general) from 5-1. Chelsea are second best at 4-1
(general) with Liverpool 9-2 (general) and Arsenal also 9-2 (Ladbrokes).
Of that quartet Liverpool are perhaps the
best bet. The pressure continues to grow on Rafael Benítez - Sky Bet
offers 8-11 he will not be in charge at Anfield at the start of next season and
12-1 he goes before the end of this month - but he has won the Cup before and,
as his side are so far off the pace in the Premier League (Sky Bet and Sporting
Odds offer 100-1), this competition looks his best chance of a trophy.
Liverpool face Havant and Waterlooville at home tomorrow and will surely
progress. The non-leaguers are freely available at 100-1 to win at Anfield and
50-1 with William Hill to qualify for the next round (Hill's has laid a
£1,000 bet on them to do so at that price).
After the big four
Portsmouth and Manchester City are joint fifth favourites at 16-1 (both
generally available) with Newcastle 28-1 (Sky Bet), Tottenham Hotspur 28-1
(Coral), Middlesbrough 40-1 (Boyle's) and 100-1 bar.
already been stung by backing outsiders to win the Cup this year - during the
24 hours before the third round Ladbrokes alone laid Everton at 25-1 which
would have lost them more than £125,000, Aston Villa at 50-1 would have
cost them more than £80,000 and Blackburn Rovers at 33-1 more than
£40,000 - so they are probably wary of going in again on a team except
for one of the big four.
At current prices, though, I could not put
anyone off having a flutter on Portsmouth. Harry Redknapp's side will have all
of his players back from the African Cup of Nations by the time the fifth round
is played and they should defeat Plymouth Argyle tomorrow to get there. Betfred
and Blue Square are best at an attractive 4-9 about them doing so without the
need for a replay and 7-1 is freely available for a Pilgrims victory at Fratton
If Tottenham reproduce their Carling Cup form it is possible to
see them winning at Old Trafford on Sunday. Juande Ramos has a superb record in
domestic cups - a team of his last suffered a defeat in a national knockout
tournament back in January 2006 when Sevilla were beaten 3-2 by Cádiz in
the Copa del Rey - and Paddy Power is offering prices on the competition in
which Spurs will lose first. As they face United away this weekend, the FA Cup
is the 2-7 favourite, with the Uefa Cup and Carling Cup both 5-1 (Tottenham
play Slavia Prague home and away in the former before facing Chelsea in the
final of the latter at the end of next month).
Coral has updated its
cup odds "without the big four" and makes Pompey favourites at 4-1 with City
6-1, Boro 7-1, Spurs 9-1 and 10-1 bar.
Paddy Power has revised its "top
cup goalscorer from the third round onwards" prices and has dangled a carrot
for punters by listing Steven Gerrard at 7-2. The Liverpool captain, who won
this market in 2006 with only four goals (dead- heating with Yakubu Ayegbeni),
has three already this season and, if he starts against Havant tomorrow, could
easily double his tally.
Selections Liverpool to win the FA
Cup at 9-2 (general) Steve Gerrard to be the top FA Cup goalscorer from the
third round onwards at 7-2 (Paddy Power) Portsmouth, each-way, in the FA
Cup at 16-1 (general)