STAR PREVIEW: FA Cup 2021-22 Outrights

The FA Cup is a competition which provides magical memories across the football pyramid each season, and hopefully we’ll get more incredible moments this time around, despite the still persistent knock-on effects of the pandemic.

For all that the David v Goliath ties will provide thrills over the next few months, when it comes to winning the FA Cup, it has been a preserve of English football’s elite for the past decade. Only three clubs outside Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool have won the trophy since 1994-95, and last season’s winners Leicester had been on the verge of the top four for the past three seasons before that.

Manchester City lead the betting for this campaign, which is understandable given the sheer depth available to Pep Guardiola. A healthy lead in the Premier League is likely to be a big help, but there’s no doubting that the Champions League will be their main focus in the spring and early summer, and with that trophy still missing from their cabinet, it could get even more focus than in previous years.

A third-round tie tonight against Swindon is an ideal start on paper, but what appears to be a COVID outbreak has robbed City of seven players and their backers could be in for a more uncomfortable evening than hoped.

Chelsea are defending European Champions who – along with Liverpool – could also be dragged into a top-four battle if their form doesn’t improve, but they have strong claims at the prices.

Thomas Tuchel’s side have been battered by injury and illness in recent weeks – he currently has nine players out of action – but he was still able to put out a strong side for their EFL Cup semi-final with Tottenham in midweek as Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Marcos Alonso, Jorginho, Hakim Ziyech, Mason Mount and Romelu Lukaku all started, whilst Mateo Kovacici, Reuben Loftus-Cheek and Christian Pulisic were on the bench.

Tuchel put out a strong side for a semi-final against their North London rivals but he’s been blessed with a home tie against Chesterfield this weekend, has the deepest squad in England bar Manchester City, and an excellent cup record including cups in Germany and France before coming to Chelsea.

Chelsea reached the final after he took over last season, and also managed to win the Champions League in that campaign – despite facing Manchester City in the semi-finals – and at 11/2 it could be worth putting faith in Tuchel to manage separate runs in Europe and the Cup.

Liverpool will also be focusing on the Champions League, and in any case, they have not taken the FA Cup seriously under Jurgen Klopp, so they can be easily left out. Manchester United have the potential to be a big price at 15/2, but there are many things for Ralf Ragnick to sort out before trophies are on the agenda and United couldn’t be backed for anything in their current state.

FA Cup 2022

Schedule:
Third Round Proper: Saturday 8 January 2022
Fourth Round Proper: Saturday 5 February 2022
Fifth Round Proper: Wednesday 2 March 2022
Quarter-Final: Saturday 19 March 2022
Semi-Final: Saturday 16 April 2022
Final” Saturday 14 May 2022

*Subject to change

PAST WINNERS & RUNNERS UP
2020-21 FA Cup Final: Leicester City (won 1-0 against Chelsea)
2019-20 FA Cup Final: Arsenal (won 2-1 against Chelsea)
2018-19 FA Cup final: Manchester City (won 5-0 against Watford)
2017-18 FA Cup final: Chelsea (won 1-0 against Manchester United)
2016-17 FA Cup final: Arsenal (won 2-1 against Chelsea)
2015–16 FA Cup final: Manchester United (won 2–1 against Crystal Palace)
2014–15 FA Cup final: Arsenal (won 4–0 against Aston Villa)
2013–14 FA Cup final: Arsenal (won 3–2 against Hull City)
2012–13 FA Cup final: Wigan Athletic (won 1–0 against Manchester City)
2011–12 FA Cup final: Chelsea (won 2–1 against Liverpool)

The North London pairing of Arsenal and Tottenham are much more interesting. Arsenal have won this trophy four times in the last eight seasons and appear to be making real progress under Mikel Arteta (who led Arsenal to FA Cup success in 2019/20) who won’t have to juggle this competition with European football.

12/1 is seriously tempting for the Gunners, although most of their recent form – bar an impressive performance against Manchester City, where they deserved a point at least – has come against the lower lights of the Premier League. Nevertheless, they appear to be big runners.

Antonio Conte – a past winner of this with Chelsea in 2017/18 – has also started to get the best out of Tottenham recently, and there’s no doubting at if they’re a force to be reckoned with at their best, but the nature of their 2-0 defeat to Chelsea this week in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final was seriously worrying and recent evidence suggests that Spurs still need to make improvement if they’re to take on the very best consistently.

Leicester haven’t enjoyed the same success this season as they did during the last campaign, but they could be interesting outsiders in a bid to defend their title. Brendan Rogers’ side will have taken much confidence from their recent win against Liverpool in the Premier League and whilst they’ve been drawn against top-flight opposition in the third round, they look rightful favourites to beat Watford and it’s worth noting that they beat three Premier League sides on the way to the final last year, when they were deserving winners over Chelsea.

Brendan Rogers takes this competition most seriously so a weakened line up isn’t going to be a worry, and if Leicester can re-find their best form (and their issues this season have mainly come from defending set pieces, not struggling to create chances) then they’ll be a major threat to all.

West Ham are very tempting at 22/1 but the Europa League and a potential top four spot are likely to be bigger targets for David Moyes, who has a smaller squad than most of his immediate competitors.

28/1 makes no appeal for an out of sorts Everton, and Aston Villa would have made more appeal if it wasn’t for an away trip to Manchester United (although with the form United have been showing, nobody should feel too strongly put off their outright chances).

33/1 and 40/1 look to be fair prices for Brighton, Wolves and Crystal Palace, all of whom have decent first round ties and look to have the quality to keep themselves clear of relegation whilst also making a bid for cup action, although a lack of cutting edge could be anise for them against higher tier opposition.


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