In season of shocks West Ham and Stoke attract for FA Cup glory

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In another season, a home tie against a Championship side in the fifth round would be considered plum for a team such as Arsenal, who are now favourites to retain the FA Cup with Ladbrokes following the draw.

With half of the Premier League teams absent from the hat, and the top two dumped out in breathtaking fashion in round four, holders Arsenal are installed as 9/4 pokes to defend the famous cup.

However, Middlesbrough pose a formidable threat at the Emirates Stadium having ended Manchester City’s hopes at the Etihad in style, whilst Aitor Karanka’s side sit just a point shy of the second-tier summit.

Next in the betting are Manchester United at 5/2, who, alongside Arsenal with 11, own the highest amount of replica FA Cups in their overstocked trophy cabinet.

However, the Red Devils are in the midst of a 10-year drought and given Cambridge United have forced a replay and giant-killing Sheffield United could lay in wait at Bramall Lane in round five, it would take a brave punter to back Louis van Gaal’s men on the evidence so far.

If 11/2-shots Liverpool successfully hurdle Bolton, and that’s a decent-sized if, a trip to Selhurst Park to face a team who soundly beat them there 3-1 in the league and who are on a winning streak under their new manager, awaits.

Therein Alan Pardew’s Eagles also intrigue at 20/1.

But arguably, all scenarios facing the big three sides, and Palace, are far more treacherous than those West Ham (9/1) and Stoke (14/1) are up against.

The Hammers are going along at a lick under Sam Allardyce this season, just four points off fourth, and travel to the scene of a 2-1 league triumph over West Brom in the fifth round.

Irons enthusiasts will be confident too, as the Baggies 1-0 win last term was the only time in nine they’ve inflicted defeat on their east London counterparts in all competitions.

Meanwhile Stoke are slipping under the radar with a tie at Blackburn next. Although Rovers ousted Swansea, the top-flight side played with 10 for the vast majority and the Lancashire side did little to convince they will go much further.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Christian Crowther

Give Christian a sport with anything remotely spherical in it and he’ll happily while away the hours watching it on the box. However, he’d much prefer writing about, playing or betting on golf, football, cricket, tennis, snooker.... you get the picture.