Not many people seem to care about the FA Cup like they used to, but few sides show it disdain like the teams struggling at the bottom of the Premier League nowadays.
With the money generated from being in ‘the best league in the world’ too much to contemplate losing, perennial relegation strugglers have as good as given up on the FA Cup. If proof were needed, take a look at the bottom six sides: two are already out, while three face replays this week after fielding weakened teams to lower league opposition.
Bolton and Wolves face Macclesfield and Birmingham respectively, but I think it is at Loftus Road where the biggest chance of an upset occurs and at the prices available, I fancy League One MK Dons can go to Queens Park Rangers and secure a home tie with Chelsea in the next round.
Bwin chalk up that outcome as a 333/100 chance, the biggest price of a 3Way football betting market that sees QPR odds-on favourites at 39/50 and the draw priced up at 13/5 after Heidar Helgusson’s late strike at stadium:mk earned QPR a replay in a 1-1 draw.
Newly-installed QPR manager Mark Hughes is a certain improvement on Neil Warnock, who has always resembled a fish out of water at Premier League level.
The Welshman comes with a proven pedigree at medium-sized clubs and will no doubt improve Rangers in the medium term, but the short term reality is he doesn’t need an FA Cup run and going out wouldn’t be a disaster when the Hoops lie in the relegation zone with problems to address.
With memories of a 4-0 romp at Norwich in the Carling Cup already this season fresh in the mind – QPR lost at home to Rochdale at the same stage – the Dons will fancy their chances against a team who haven’t won an FA Cup tie since 2001.
I understand a defeat to lower league opposition on your home debut is not ideal, but it is a small price to pay for Premier League survival and with a host of changes sure to be made, the free-scoring Dons can take advantage of QPR’s poor form.
Since a win at Stoke in November, QPR have gone ten games without a win and the problem is obvious – they cannot score goals.
Rangers have scored just 19 times this season – only Wigan have less – and have netted just seven times in their ten-game winless streak.
Hughes, who saw first hand in Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Newcastle how toothless his new charges are, will be looking to find a solution in the transfer market, but that won’t help on Tuesday night and MK Dons will not fear visiting a team who have won only one of their 11 home games in all competitions, losing six.
Under the tutelage of promising young manager Karl Robinson, the ambitious Dons are well in the promotion mix in League One, lying seven points off second place with two games in hand.
Their recent away form has been excellent, winning five and drawing one of their last six in all competitions, scoring an impressive 18 goals along the way.
And with memories of a 4-0 romp at Norwich in the Carling Cup already this season fresh in the mind – QPR lost at home to Rochdale at the same stage – they will fancy their chances against a team who haven’t won an FA Cup tie since 2001.
It must be remembered that a money-spinning home clash against Chelsea is exactly the sort of profile boost eccentric Dons chairman Pete Winkleman would love, so all the motivation Robinson needs will be stemming from his board room and at 17/5 I recommend a play on that dream coming to life.
For those who aren’t quite brave enough to take the 17/5 on a win in 90 minutes, MK Dons are 19/10 to qualify by any means (factoring in extra-time or a penalty shoot-out) while you can get evens on a draw or away win inside the normal distance.
Punters feeling extremely brave could look to MK Dons to win despite a one-goal deficit, which is priced at 35/4. That may seem a bit ambitious, but 13 of their 17 wins in all competitions have been by more than a goal.
Handicap-beating winning margins have come in nine times in their ten away wins – so the Dons seem to win convincingly or not at all.
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