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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Strong squad can fire Man United to FA Cup glory

Leicester contenders if they keep Riyad Mahrez

Manchester United's Paul Pogba
1 of 1

Tournament preview

Jose Mourinho won the League Cup and the Europa League in his first season as Manchester United manager and his ongoing thirst for trophies can be quenched by an FA Cup triumph in May.

The Premier League's big six dominate the betting and favourites Manchester City are no bigger than 4-1 despite not have won the competition since 2011.

City have been in a class of their own and probably deserve to be favourites but their potential success in other competitions, particularly the Champions League, could make it harder for them.

The away leg of City's Champions League last-16 clash away to Basel takes place in the same week as the FA Cup fifth round. And City's squad could be seriously tested in April with the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals taking place just a few days after the FA Cup semi-finals.

Any of the other English teams in the Champions League could face the same problem but City look the best equipped to have a long run in Europe and their FA Cup chances could be diminished.

Chelsea – FA Cup joint-second favourites alongside United at 13-2 – have a decent third-round draw at Norwich but could struggle from the last 16 onwards.

The Blues play the home leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Barcelona a few days after the FA Cup fifth round and make the trip to Camp Nou in the same week as the doemstic cup quarter-finals.

Tottenham's FA Cup hopes could also be compromised by the Champions League.

The Lilywhites' squad lacks depth and their tough last-16 tie against Juventus will be their main focus in February and March.

Liverpool are similar to Spurs in that their first-choice side relies on one or two key individuals and they are by no means certain to overcome Everton in tonight's third-round tie.

Manchester United have more depth to their squad than Liverpool and Spurs, giving them a better chance of a long run in the FA Cup.

Nobody in the United ranks has shone as brightly as Mohamed Salah or Harry Kane but the Red Devils look far less reliant on a few individual players than some of their rivals.

They coped well during Paul Pogba's absence between September and November, winning nine games out of 12, and finished off the festive period with a 2-0 success at Everton despite going into the match without Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Mourinho will probably use plenty of fringe players in the FA Cup, starting with their third-round tie at home to Derby, but United's second string should be strong enough to get through the early rounds and star players Pogba and Lukaku can make the difference when it gets to the last eight.

Arsenal are the biggest club in the competition without a Champions League distraction which may help them in their defence of the trophy.

However, their indifference to the Europa League may change if they remain outside the Premier League's top four and that could impact negatively on their FA Cup hopes.

Eight of the last nine FA Cups have been won by one of the big six but there is room for surprise challengers.

Leicester famously won the Premier League in 2015-16 and were Champions League quarter-finalists last season with largely the same group of players they have now.

The Foxes have a nice starter at Sky Bet League One outfit Fleetwood and can have a bold run at the competition safe in the knowledge that they are in a comfortable position in the league.

Leicester were 2-0 winners at home to Liverpool in the third round of this season's League Cup and triumphed 2-1 at home to Tottenham in a Premier League clash in November.

Their capacity to upset the big guns makes them genuine each-way contenders, although it is vital they rebuff potential bids for key man Riyad Mahrez.

Recommendations
Manchester United
2pts 7-1 188Bet
Leicester
1pt each-way 28-1 Sky Bet


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City look the best equipped to have a long run in Europe and their FA Cup chances could be diminished
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