The FA Cup has more than fulfilled its remit this season to entertain and surprise.
Remember non-league Chorley beating Derby County, not to mention Crawley Town's comprehensive dismantling of Leeds? As for thrills and spills it's hard to top the sheer lunacy at Goodison in the previous round with Everton eventually progressing past Spurs 5-4. The competition even managed to get five goals out of Manchester United v Liverpool, a fixture that has become low-scoring and terminally boring of late.
Alas, that all ends now as the quarter finals loom large. Because with a major trophy potentially just 270 minutes away suddenly the big boys perk up and show a real interest. Suddenly the best teams pick their best teams and sentiment is thrown out of the window instead of the form book.
Upsets and drama this weekend will likely be in short supply as the cold, clinical laws of the jungle hold sway.
We already miss that memorable, magical afternoon in Chorley.
Peaks and troughs
When trying to determine which of the remaining eight will ultimately lift the cup in May it is perhaps necessary to work out who realistically aren't in the running and go from there. This leads us to an intriguing affair on the south coast.
What fascinates about Bournemouth's hosting of Southampton is not the derby angle or indeed the difference in league status. It's that both teams have been racking up defeats on an almost weekly basis now for yonks.
For the play-off chasing Cherries theirs has been a season of two halves and this can directly be attributed to injuries and a loss of prolificacy from their chief goal-getters Dominic Solanke and Junior Stanislas. The duo have scored just three in the Championship in 2021 compared to a combined 16 from September to the new year. Bournemouth were sitting pretty in second spot at Christmas. They have since plummeted to seventh accruing just 18 points from a possible 45.
As for the Saints their form has fallen head-first off a cliff, losing ten in 12 and this after a sustained and promising start to the campaign. Since beating Liverpool at the beginning of the year Ralph Hasenhuttl's men have conceded a goal every 33 minutes.
With both sides struggling it is perhaps reasonable to conclude that quality will win out here and Southampton are generously priced at 10/11 to progress inside 90 minutes.
Elsewhere, Everton would probably rather their daunting pairing with Manchester City was taking place at the Etihad, so poor has been their return on home turf. The Toffees have won just once in seven outings at Goodison in the league in 2021.
Manchester United meanwhile head to the King Power boasting an unbeaten away record that stretches back 22 games. This however is balanced out by Leicester returning to winning ways after a brief blip. Of the quartet this is unquestionably the hardest to call.
By comparison, Chelsea versus Sheffield United is relatively easy to gauge. The Blues remain unbeaten since Thomas Tuchel took the reins back in late January and have to date been breached just twice in 12 matches. To detail the Blades' shortcomings seems just cruel at this point.
Chelsea are 10/11 to win to nil
There is another factor to consider when assessing the likeliest cup winner elect from the pack, one that is far more intangible than recent results. Who from the eight has the proven pedigree to go all the way?
When the track record of all eight sides going right back to 2000 is totted up using a points system (one for exiting in round three going up to six for reaching a final) it is little surprise to see Chelsea miles ahead of the rest. After all, the Blues have appeared in seven of the last 14 finals.
It's hardly a shock either, to see Manchester United in second place with City lying third whilst Bournemouth's poor showing is explained away by many years residing in the lower leagues.
What does raise an eyebrow is how close Southampton, Leicester and Sheffield United are to Everton, given that the trio have spent a combined 27 seasons in the Championship and nine in the third tier. The Toffees have of course remained in the top-flight throughout.
Their desperation to reverse a prolonged failure in this competition adds further pressure and expectation onto the players and can only be viewed as a negative.
Manchester City are 9/1 to win 3-1, repeating the score-line from last month's league clash
Another aspect to consider where Everton are concerned is their desire to attain a top four spot this term. Might a cup run prove to be a somewhat unwelcome distraction? At least here, they are far from being alone.
Five of the Premier League's present top six remain in this tournament with all but one presumably prioritizing a Champions League berth. Manchester City meanwhile may well have the title virtually sewn up but it's worth noting they are currently fighting on four fronts.
Southampton for their part, are casting worried glances at the relegation trap-door while Bournemouth have the play-offs in their sights.
Indeed, oddly the only side without a secondary concern this weekend is Sheffield United who are surely already down. Could we see a repeat of 2010 and 2013 when Portsmouth and Wigan upset the odds and reached a cup final in the same month they dropped?
If you believe there is still some magic left at the business end of this year's competition the Blades are 13/2 to prevail at the Bridge including extra-time and pens
Difference makers and deadlock breakers
Only one in the last eight FA Cup quarter finals has been decided by more than a single goal margin. These are typically tight encounters.
It follows therefore that the in-form difference makers within each side will come to the fore and for this reason Manchester United should be fearful of Kelechi Iheanacho who has notched five times in his last three appearances for Leicester. The 24-year-old also grabbed the winner against Brighton in the previous round.
On Merseyside expect Riyad Mahrez to shine. The Algerian winger has scored four and made two assists in his last six league games for City and is nabbing Man of the Match awards on a regular basis. It matters too that he has scored more times at Goodison during his career than at any ground other than the King Power and Etihad.
Looking further south, Che Adams is coming into a rich vein of goal-scoring form for the Saints. Expect him to cause the Cherries all manner of problems after converting three in three in the Premier League.
Adams is 9/1 to score two or more goals v Bournemouth
So, who is your money on to win the cup outright this year? With impeccable pedigree and propelled by serious form it is hard to look past Chelsea and Tuchel's side are 3/1 to wear silly hats at Wembley in May.