FA Cup fifth round weekend is fast approaching on the horizon and—as ever in this competition—some of the bigger teams could be in for some big shocks.
With that in mind, it’s time to select which of the eight last-16 ties has the biggest upset value if they were to happen. Admittedly, it gets harder to pick out potential giant-killings as the competition gets nearer to the Wembley showpiece in May, which is why there have been only three matches chosen instead of five like in the previous two rounds.
Watford vs Leeds United
Having the Premier League team at home to the Championship outfit is what would make this upset all the more impressive. The Hornets have far exceeded expectations this season, sitting comfortably in mid-table and twelve points above the relegation zone.
That also means they could play a strong starting XI, which would increase the shock factor if they were to falter to a Leeds side experiencing another turbulent season in the second tier. Steve Evans’ side are 16th in the table and have a pie-in-the-sky chance of promotion. I wonder how United fans are going to protest against owner Massimo Cellino this week.
Arsenal vs Hull City
This is the third meeting between these teams in as many seasons in this competition and if it’s like the last two, the Gunners will be the victors. While both sides are harbouring top-of-the-table ambitions (albeit in different divisions), it’s the holders Arsenal who obviously have the most to lose, although the home fans could see some of their fringe players on display given the small matter of their match against Barcelona in the Champions League three days later.
Hull sit at the summit of the Championship table in their quest to bounce straight back into the increased riches of the Premier League, and if they play like they did in the first ten minutes of the 2014 final (not the last 110), then they have half a chance of an upset.
Shrewsbury Town vs Manchester United
The Red Devils are going to look to take this competition seriously in order to salvage something out of a disappointing season. They haven’t won any major silverware since 2013, and what should be a simple passage into the quarter-final of the FA Cup will give them hope of ending the drought.
As for the Shrews’ trip, manager Louis Van Gaal will be hoping his side can muster a decent enough attack to see off Micky Mellon’s outfit in 90 minutes. The Shropshire club are 19th in League One after gaining promotion last season and they’ll be looking to channel the spirit of 2003, when they defeated Everton 2-1 in the third round at the old Gay Meadow ground.