FA Cup Semi-Finals Betting: Don't expect underdogs to have their day
Cup football is meant to favour outsiders but when it comes to the FA Cup semi-finals the overwhelming trend is for the favourites to prevail, writes Andrew Atherley.
In the Premier League era, there have been 32 FA Cup semi-finals and the better team has qualified from 28 of them (88%) - the better team being defined by higher league position or by points average, in those instances where the league positions were blurred by differing numbers of games played.
And, with 25 of those 32 semis being decided in 90 minutes, there are strong pointers to victories for Manchester United and Chelsea this weekend over Everton and Arsenal respectively.
United certainly have strong trends in their favour. They have never lost at the semi-final stage under Sir Alex Ferguson, coming through eight times starting with their breakthrough success in the FA Cup in 1990. Early in that run they had some narrow scrapes, winning replays against Oldham twice and Crystal Palace, but since the mid-1990s they have won four out of five in 90 minutes despite being paired against strong opponents (Arsenal, twice, and Chelsea) on three occasions.
Facing a team from outside the big four is also a bonus for United, making them clear [2.58] favourites in the FA Cup Winner market. In the Premier League era, teams heading for a top-four finish have gone through in all 12 semi-finals when they have played opponents from outside the top four (nine times in 90 minutes).
Everton are close to the big four, but their chance of breaking their stranglehold has all but gone this season and they will have to buck the trends to make the final. United are [1.39] to qualify, with Everton [3.3], and the interesting bet is United to win in 90 minutes at [1.8] given the recent trend for semis to be settled quickly, United's excellent record in semis and the good win rate of top-four teams. The case is strengthened by United's 11 wins in 15 meetings with Everton since David Moyes took charge at Goodison Park.
Nor is there much encouragement for the view that Everton could sneak a surprise cup triumph while the other three semi-finalists are preoccupied with bigger targets. In the past 10 seasons, teams still involved in the Champions League have gone through in five out of six semi-finals, and the only failure was Arsenal against Manchester United.
The other semi is much closer, with Chelsea and Arsenal having similar records at the semi-final stage in recent seasons. Chelsea have made seven semi-final appearances in the past 15 years and have reached the final five times, with their only semi-final defeats being against top-class opposition (Manchester United and Liverpool).
Arsenal have made the same number of semi-final appearances (in a slightly shorter timespan since Arsene Wenger took charge in 1996) and they too have reached five finals, with Manchester United the only club to have put them out at the semi-final stage.
But the trends point to Chelsea (one place and six points ahead of Arsenal in the league table) and they are worthy [1.86] favourites to go through, with Arsenal [2.14]. Again, the match result market is interesting with so many semis decided in 90 minutes, and Chelsea to win at [2.58] is well worth considering.
Chelsea are [3.7] in the FA Cup Winner market and that could be a good trading opportunity, as they would be not much above [2.0] to lift the trophy if they progressed to a final against Manchester United and would be strong favourites if they found themselves up against Everton.
The FA Cup is Chelsea's most realistic chance of silverware and they are [3.05] to make that their only trophy of the season, though that is only slightly ahead of a Champions League success at [3.15]. Success in both competitions is  and they are [1.45] to end the season potless.
The most active Team Trophies market is Manchester United, who are shortest at [3.3] to add only the Premier League title to their Carling Cup success. Next at [5.0] is a treble comprising the Premier League and the two domestic cup competitions, and then they are [7.4] to win the Premier League, Champions League and Carling Cup - they are the same odds to finish only with the Carling Cup.
One sobering thought for United backers in the FA Cup is that the last three Premier League champions to reach the semi-finals have failed to win the trophy (if we assume that United can hold on to their league title). A crucial factor has been the intense competition between the big four, whose emergence can be traced back to the 1999/2000 season. The Premier League and FA Cup double was achieved four times in six seasons prior to that, but only Arsenal in 2001/2002 have managed it since.
Those three recent failures to complete a league and FA Cup double (by Manchester United in 2006/07, Chelsea in 2005/06 and Arsenal in 2003/04) all came when there was another team from the big four among the semi-finalists. This year's strong semi-final line-up indicates particular difficulty for United to justify FA Cup favouritism.'.$sign_up['title'].''; } } ?>