As the tension rises ahead of the FA Cup fifth round draw at 19:00 there will be one side that nestle near the top of every remaining side’s ideal opponents list.
Reading may be the rank, 150/1 outright betting outsiders of those to have conclusively booked a ticket in the last 16, yet there’s reason to suspect that the cub subject to most finger crossing when their ball is drawn is none other than Aston Villa.
A common conception is that everyone from Arsenal (11/4 favourites to retain the cup), to Chelsea-conquerors Bradford City (50/1) would be best served by playing the lowest-ranked opposition possible.
However, as the fourth round highlighted, it’s often better the devil you know when it comes to one-off knockout ties, with the Bantams and Middlesbrough seriously underestimated by their foes.
The vanquished Premier League fat cats may have paid lip service to the idea of respecting their lower league adversaries’ ability, but in so many ways this simply wasn’t evident.
Arriving back from Abu Dhabi the day before the game (as Manchester City did) or dropping key players (like Chelsea) illustrates the fact that they were simply not aware enough of their rivals’ strengths.
Rather than hope for another (super motivated) lower-division side about which comparatively little is known, the remaining big guns (and the smaller shooters too) are far better off rooting for a meeting with one of the Premier League’s lesser lights in round five.
Subject to constant Murdoch vision media exposure, their limitations are as well known as their self confidence is scant from the constant grim struggle for points.
Outfits like Reading, Cambridge, Bradford and Preston all retain a fair level of mystique in comparison and should be regarded as less desirable opponents as a result.
Villa, on the other hand, are routine fodder for Man Utd and lost to Liverpool and Arsenal last time they met them.
Bradford too out-foxed the second-city side over two legs in their most recent encounter, in the 2012/13 Capital One Cup.