Lincoln City and Sutton United are the only non-league sides left in the FA Cup, but both have arguably favourable fixtures in the fourth round should they progress past their third-round replays.
There are also a few League Two sides knocking around with Wycombe Wanderers and Accrington Stanley already through. They will face Tottenham Hotspur and Middlesbrough respectively. After Leicester City’s amazing run to the Premier League title last season that demonstrated how anything can happen in football, could one of these lower teams upset the established hierarchy in the cup?
The last time a team outside of the top tier won the FA Cup was in the 1979-80 season, when West Ham United beat Arsenal 1-0. The Hammers were in the second division at the time. The most recent significant upset was when Wigan Athletic beat Manchester City 1-0 in 2013 (see video below) and then went on to be relegated to the Championship. In the last 35 years, only three sides outside of the top flight have made the final at Wembley. These were Cardiff City in 2008, Millwall in 2004, and Sunderland in 1992.
These records show how slim the chances of a smaller club winning the trophy are, but also suggest that a major upset could long be overdue. With the amount of unexpected victories in recent times, capped by the Foxes run last season, a punt on one of the teams with long odds could prove to be fortuitous. There would certainly be nothing to lose by using free bets such as the “Deposit £10 and play with £60” offer from Coral. Sutton can be backed at 3000/1 to go all the way, in what would surely be an even greater underdog tale than Leicester’s success.
Unfortunately for all the lower teams with hopes of toppling the elite clubs at the summit, all the Premier League’s top six teams are still in the competition. League leaders Chelsea are favourites to go all the way and face Brentford in the next round. Arsenal perhaps have the toughest fixture, as they will play either Norwich or Southampton. Spurs will feel they received the easiest draw of the lot as they prepare to entertain Wycombe.
The fixture list suggests that all the big guns could be there until the end.
Perhaps a Championship side might get lucky and defeat one of these powerhouses. Highflyers in the division Brighton & Hove Albion will face either Ipswich or Lincoln City in the next round of fixtures, while Newcastle United will travel to Oxford United if they can overcome Birmingham in the replay of their third-round tie. Leeds United are also in great form and will face either Sutton or AFC Wimbledon, both of whom they will consider kind opponents.
There haven’t been many shock results up to now in this year’s competition, and it feels as though a giant slaying could be on the cards at some point.
Here’s hoping that one of the smaller teams gets a good run and makes this the most exciting FA Cup of recent times.