It may have lost some of its sheen, partly as a result of being spread over three days instead of ties taking place on one gloriously unpredictable Saturday afternoon, but the FA Cup third round has undoubtedly retained a sizeable quota of magic.
The FA Cup has become rewardingly predictable: four teams have won 21 of the 25 finals contested since 1992 – a success ratio of 84 percent.
Backing Chelsea (11/2, bet365) or Arsenal (8/1, Unibet) over this period would have provided punters with a better-than-evens chance of success.
Add Manchester United (8/1, BetVictor.com) and Liverpool (13/2, Skybet) into the mix and almost all bases are covered.
Both Newcastle and Sunderland start their respective FA Cup ties as favourites this weekend, with Sunderland’s 6/5 odds (Marathonbet) to overhaul Burnley (11/5, Matchbook.com) a tad shorter than many punters may have expected, especially after the Clarets hammered Sunderland on New Year’s Eve.
The draw (12/5, William Hill) has found favour amongst those not expecting to see full-strength line-ups, a view which adds appeal to bet365’s 13/2 posted against it finishing one apiece.
However, neither side will relish the prospect of a replay and both will seek a conclusive outcome.
Bookies believe Sunderland are the most likely victors, with Matchbook.com quoting 13/2 against them winning 1-0, while 188bet chalk 3/1 about them registering victory by a one-goal margin.
High-flying Newcastle head to St Andrews for a tie against Birmingham City who kick off as Paddy Power’s 10/3 underdogs – surprisingly long considering Newcastle’s propensity to slip up away from home.
Rafa Benitez’s men were originally installed as 4/6 favourites, but according to the match stats team at bettingexpert.com those odds have lengthened recently (to 10/11, Betway) following a series of indifferent away performances.
Newcastle thumped Birmingham 4-0 when the pair met in the league last month and another Magpie win is widely anticipated, Coral quoting 2/1 against them leading at the end of both halves.
Dwight Gayle is 3/1 at 188bet to open the scoring, while a 2-0 away win is rated an 8/1 shot by Ladbrokes.