Which FA Cup Outsider Can Take Their Chance And Stride Along The Road To Wembley?

At least one place in the final beckons for success-starved clubs.
With Manchester United squaring up against Arsenal in the tie of the FA Cup quarter-finals there is a huge opportunity for the other teams still left in the competition of reaching the final at Wembley.

In 14 out of the past 15 years the trophy has been won by one of the traditional Big Four clubs - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United - with Portsmouth the only club to break the norm by winning it in 2008 under Harry Redknapp’s guidance.

With the two favourites for the trophy going head to head there is another glorious opportunity for a different club to get their hands on the famous old trophy and break the established order of recent years.

But which 'other' team stands the greatest chance? Let's start by assessing the one team which needs a trophy to cement its place amongst England's elite clubs.


FA Cup record: Winners 1904, 1934, 1956 and 1969

Odds to win the FA Cup: 5/2

Manager: Roberto Mancini

Manager's cup calibre:
The Italian is a four-time winner of the Coppa Italia. He won the cup with Fiorentina, Lazio and twice with Inter. In last season’s FA Cup he guided City to the fifth round before a 3-1 defeat at Stoke in a replay ended their competition. He has already gone one round better this year but he will be hopeful of booking a place in the semi-finals at Wembley with a win over Championship side Reading.

FA Cup hero so far: Patrick Vieira – The former Arsenal skipper has featured in all five of Manchester City’s cup ties. His experience of England’s oldest cup competition has been invaluable and he has been in good goal scoring form scoring three times.

Why they might just win it:
Manchester City are arguably now part of English football’s top tier of clubs thanks to their financial muscle and they will be confident of adding their first major trophy since 1969.

Mancini has a squad full of stars at his disposal and with Manchester United and Arsenal locking horns in one of the other quarter-finals, a passage seems to have opened up for them.

The attacking talent they have at their disposal will be the key as they look to end a 42-year wait for silverware. In the likes of Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko they have the firepower to shoot them all the way to Wembley.

Why they won't:
On any given day it is difficult to tell which Manchester City will turn up.

At times they can be sublime but inconsistency has been a problem for them all season and in the FA Cup they have been taken to a replay by lower league clubs Leicester City and Notts County.

Mancini’s main focus will be on sealing Champions League football next season but with the big squad City have they should still be a big player in this season’s competition.


FA Cup record: Semi-finalists 1899, 1971 and 1972

Odds to win the FA Cup: 10/1

Tony Pulis

Manager's cup calibre: Pulis usually focuses solely on Premier League survival but last season he managed to guide Stoke to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. The run included a memorable win over Arsenal.

He has repeated the feat this year and will be hoping to win his first piece of silverware as a manager.

FA Cup hero so far: Jonathan Walters – Has scored three goals in four FA Cup appearances this season. He scored in the replay win over Cardiff and also in the 3-0 victory over Brighton.

Why they might just win it: Stoke are really strong at home and they face West Ham in the quarter-finals at the Britannia stadium.

The Potters’ fans will get behind their team and it will be an intimidating place for Avram Grant’s side to go. They are a strong physical side and in Rory Delap’s long throw they have a weapon which causes problems to all the teams that come up against it.

Why they won't: Like some of the other teams still involved in the cup, Stoke are involved in the relegation battle.

They find themselves only four points adrift of the relegation zone and Pulis’ main priority is to secure Premier League football for next season.

With this in mind he could rotate his squad and field weakened sides to keep his players fresh for the league run-in.


FA Cup record:  Runners-up 1931 and 1956

Odds to win the FA Cup: 12/1

Alex McLeish

Manager's cup calibre: McLeish’s cup record in Scotland was exceptional and he furthered his reputation with Birmingham’s League Cup triumph this season. He has won the Scottish equivalent of the FA Cup on two occasions, both with Rangers in 2002 and 2003. He also won the Scottish League Cup three times with the Ibrox club, so he knows not only how to get his club to cup finals but how to win them.

FA Cup hero so far: David Murphy – The defender is not your likely hero but he has been in the goals for Birmingham during their run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. He was on the scoresheet in his side’s wins over Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday.

Why they might just win it: They have already made one successful trip to Wembley where they beat Arsenal 2-1 in the League Cup final and the confidence they will have taken from that makes them a formidable prospect.

In Nikola Zigic they have the most awkward centre forward in English football. His height frightens teams and he is starting to cause damage after taking time to settle into the English game.

Why they won't: Birmingham are flirting dangerously close to the relegation zone in the Premier League and after already securing some silverware this season the FA Cup might not be high up on the agenda.

Alex McLeish could rotate his troops as he tries to secure top-flight status for next year and that could mean weakened teams in the FA Cup.


FA Cup record: Winners 1923, 1926, 1929 and 1958

Odds to win the FA Cup: 14/1

Manager: Owen Coyle

Manager's cup calibre: Coyle was minutes away from steering former club Burnley to a major Wembley final in the 2008-09 season but Roman Pavlyuchenko’s late strike dented the Clarets' hopes and sent Tottenham to the League Cup final.

He also led Scottish club St Johnston to a League Cup semi-final and a Scottish Cup semi-final in his first full season as a manager. He will be looking to go one better this time and take Bolton all the way to the final.

FA Cup hero so far: Ivan Klasnic – The Croatian striker scored the only goals of the game in Bolton’s wins over Wigan and Fulham in the previous two rounds.

Why they might just win it: Bolton have a great tradition in the FA Cup, winning the trophy four times, although never since 1958.

Now that they seem firmly locked in mid-table in the Premier League, they will be able to go all out to get to Wembley.

In Coyle, they have one of the brightest young managers in the game and he will be desperate to win his first piece of major silverware.

Why they won't: Daniel Sturridge is cup-tied and while Bolton have coped without him in the competition so far, he will be a big miss.

The on-loan Chelsea star, who has been in great form for the Trotters scoring four goals in his last five games, has been a key figure in Bolton’s rise up the table and they will be weakened by his absence.


FA Cup record: Winners 1964, 1975 and 1980

Odds to win the FA Cup: 16/1

Manager: Avram Grant

Manager's cup calibre: In his time in England Avram Grant has been seen as a brilliant cup manager and not so good in the league. Whether it is his tactics or his ability to get players up for one-off games his win ration of 70% in cup competitions during his time as a manager in England suggests he knows what he is doing.

During his time as manager at Chelsea he got to a Champions League final and a League Cup final but he fell at the final hurdle on both occasions. He then joined Portsmouth and took the struggling club all the way to the FA Cup final before being beaten by his old club Chelsea.

This season he guided West Ham to the League Cup semi-final only to lose to eventual winners Birmingham. In this season’s FA Cup he will be hoping to end his hoodoo of falling at the final fence and win the cup for West Ham.

FA Cup hero so far: Victor Obinna – The on-loan Inter forward shot West Ham into the quarter-finals with a hat-trick in his side’s 3-2 win over Championship side Nottingham Forest. The Nigerian striker seems to like the cup competitions as five of his eight goals this season have come in the League Cup and FA Cup.

Why they might just win it: The Hammers have a really strong forward line after the additions of Robbie Keane and Demba Ba in January. They have scored 20 goals in their last seven games in all competitions and their recent upturn in form has seen them climb off the bottom of the Premier League and out of the relegation zone.

They seem to be hitting form at just the right time in the season and as their recent win over Liverpool proved, on their day they are a match for anybody in the league.

And with Scott Parker in their team they possess a player of the highest quality and someone who can drive them forward.

Why they won't: While improvements have been made at the top end of the league, it is in defence where West Ham look vulnerable.

Matthew Upson is out injured which is a big blow for Avram Grant and the east London club has conceded 48 goals in the league this season. So it is down to the strikers to get them to Wembley.


FA Cup record: Semi-finalists 1927

Odds to win the FA Cup:

Brian McDermott

Manager's cup calibre:
He guided Reading to the quarter-finals of last year’s competition after his side defeated Liverpool at Anfield. He has repeated the feat this year and the run has included victories over Premier League clubs West Brom and Everton.

FA Cup hero so far:
Shane Long – The striker has been a regular in Reading’s FA Cup side scoring in the third and fourth round wins over West Brom and Stevenage. The Irish striker has also been in fine form in the league scoring 21 goals so far.

Why they might just win it:
Reading are the only lower league club left in the competition and are the outsiders to lift the trophy.

But they should not be taken lightly as they have the quality going forward to cause yet another upset. They have scored 14 goals in their last five games and they have notched 59 goals so far in the Championship.

They will be full of confidence after their win at Goodison Park and will go into the match against Manchester City with nothing to lose.

Why they won't: Despite going into the game against City under no pressure they face a tough task getting into their first semi-final since 1927.

They would have preferred a home draw and McDermott will have to draw on all his managerial nous to overcome the fire-power Manchester City possess.

And while they have every chance of getting past Roberto Mancini's millionaires, in the end the quality of the Premier League sides should show through.

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