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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Commentary

FA Cup primed for exciting finish


From a field of 762 qualifiers, 16 teams remain standing after four rounds in what is the largest and most unpredictable soccer event in the world.

In a sport where the wealthiest and most recognizable clubs dominate, the FA Cup has proven why fans of every league in English football eagerly await this tournament.

After spending decades in futility and anonymity where they were relegated to a third tier league, Leeds United was able to rocket back into relevance by beating Premiere League defending champions Manchester United 1-0 in their third round match.

The win allowed them to recapture some of the sheen from their glory days, when the two teams met at the top of the standings, in what fans called the Roses Rivalry. Leeds United will replay Tottenham after reaching a draw in their first meet up to see who will face off against Bolton in the next round.

Another lower ranked team who is making noise is Notts County, who currently sit in the Second League, one behind Leeds. After facing off against other teams in lower leagues, Notts’ draw has become more competitive. In the fourth round, they let a two goal lead against Wigan slip away, holding on for a tie. If they win the replay, they will play against dominant side Fulham in the fifth round.

On the other end of the spectrum is Chelsea, who is undefeated in nine games, and is the odds on favorite to win the cup after the disqualifications of fellow powers Manchester and Arsenal.

With team leader Didier Drogba potentially distracted with the African Cup of Nations, where he plays for Ivory Coast, teams might have thought it was a good time to catch the club off guard, and steal a win. But their

7-2 victory over topside Sunderland last week showed they are well positioned to overcome any possible obstacles.

Chelsea is not the only Premiere League team left in the tournament, but probably received the more favorable draw against Champions League side Cardiff. If Wolverhampton beats Crystal Palace, they will contend with Aston Villa, who had a respectable season in the Premiership and are currently seated seventh.

Just below them in the tables is recently promoted club Birmingham, who are having a standout season and will want to continue their strong showing with a successful run in this tournament. They will be playing Derby in their fifth round match.

One of the most anticipated matches of this round is Stoke City against Manchester City.  Manchester City has not had the season they anticipated after their record-breaking signings during the summer. That large investment will no doubt make the 1.8 million pound check the cup winner receives all the more enticing.

Stoke City, conversely, will want to continue their run of good play after beating Arsenal in the fourth round and tying Liverpool last week. Lastly, Portsmouth, sitting at the bottom of the table, will play First League team Southampton, while the Championship League’s Reading and West Brom finish the round.

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