It may be some time until Premier League teams enter the fray in the FA Cup’s third round, but as the league season gets underway there’s one top-flight side that stands out from the crowd when it comes to lively long shots for the trophy – 40/1 chances Southampton.
There are nine teams shorter in the betting than the Saints, but none make such appeal at the prices.
Southampton are a team going places.
Having overcome the Premier League’s ultra-steep learning curve last season, they’ve strengthened their squad with two quality players, adding Serie A third-top goalscorer Pablo Osvaldo and sought-after Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama.
Last season’s poor performance in the competition, when they exited on the wrong end of a 5-1 home hammering from Chelsea, was indicative of a side with bigger fish to fry as they fought relegation and two games later they proved they were much better than that showing when holding the Blues to a league draw at Stamford Bridge.
That second meeting with Chelsea highlights perhaps the Saints’ most valuable asset when it comes to backing them for the FA Cup – their proven ability to get results against big sides.
League wins against the Blues, Manchester City and Liverpool last season showed that no team can take a trip to St Mary’s for granted.
Further narrow defeats at the Etihad and Old Trafford during the campaign show that their relish for the big games is not confined to home turf.
Additionally they have a defence that is growing stronger and more organised, which should give them every chance in one-off knockout ties.
In the last 10 games of 2012/13 they conceded a maximum of one goal per outing and they seem to have brought that defensive sure-footedness into this season, having opened up with an away shut-out in the victory at West Brom.