The FA Cup fifth round draw has shifted the odds for the outright winner of this year's tournament, thanks to an unusually lopsided fixture list. Despite 12 Premier League sides falling in a season of upsets, all of the remaining eight have avoided each other; we could be set for one of the most unlikely quarter-finals in the tournament's history, but more plausibly we could see an all-Premier League last eight.
Sutton United's home draw to Arsenal is undoubtedly the standout fixture, but it is also representative of the David-vs-Goliath theme of the round. Liverpool are the only top six club that have been knocked out so far, and it should remain that way after the ties takes place on 17-20 February.
The five favourites to win the tournament, then, are the usual suspects.
Antonio Conte's side have progressed comfortably past Brentford and Peterborough (4-1 & 4-0) despite making plenty of changes to their first team, suggesting that Chelsea's strength-in-depth should see them safely through to the latter rounds. And given that the league-leaders have been almost unbeatable in the Premier League this season it is perfectly logical to make them favourites.
The biggest advantage Chelsea have is their lack of European football. By the time we reach the sixth round - which takes place on March 11th, close to one leg of the Champions League and Europa League last-16 ties - Chelsea will have nine league games remaining. The league title should be sewn up, leaving Conte to field a fully refreshed first 11.
Counterintuitively, the biggest stumbling block they face is against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux in the next round. Wolves deservedly beat a Liverpool side that made nine changes, and so soon after potentially damaging league contests against Liverpool and Arsenal Conte may be forced to do something similar.
It is probably worth backing the Blues to win the FA Cup (currently at 7/2), but only after they have squeezed past Wolves.
Pep Guardiola made five changes before his team's 3-0 win over Crystal Palace last weekend and will travel to Huddersfield Town for their next tie. Fifth in the Championship, this is by no means an easy fixture for Guardiola, particularly if Man City are still in a rut in late February. What's more, they face Monaco in the Champions League just three days later, which should ensure that Guardiola makes huge changes to his starting line-up for this one - and City don't exactly boast strength-in-depth.
Even if they get through this round, things remain tough for the 2011 winners. Man City will play their sixth round match four days before the second-leg of the Monaco tie; Guardiola will surely prioritise European football and a top four finish in the league.
It is difficult to envisage City making it all the way to the FA Cup final when they have so much else to play for, especially since they were willing to make big personnel changes for their fourth round fixture against Premier League opposition. Don't back City.
Jose Mourinho has only won one previous FA Cup, in 2007, but his respect for the tournament and medal-hording instincts makes Man United worth a wager. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Mourinho has revelled in lifting the League Cup (in 2005, 2007, and 2015), which suggests he will make this year's FA Cup a top priority. The professional job on Wigan and Reading in previous rounds is testament to this.
Their fifth-round match at Blackburn Rovers comes just two days after their Europa League match against St. Etienne, but Mourinho has plenty of experience juggling multiple tournaments. Expect a strong showing from United in this round and a focused dressing room as they enter the last eight.
Another advantage United have is that they are on an upswing, having lost only once in all competitions since early November. Assuming that their battling spirit is maintained throughout the remaining four months of the season, Man United should be considered favourites to retain the FA Cup. They are certainly worth a bet at 4/1.
The fixture list has been kind to Arsenal, handing them an easy fifth-round match at Sutton before a quarter-final that comes after their probable elimination by Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Arsene Wenger's side should be able to focus on this tournament without much compromising at all.
However, Arsenal traditionally collapse in February or March, and it would be unwise to bet against this happening again in 2016/17. Furthermore, they are arguably weaker in one-off matches than Man United, Man City, and Chelsea; in five league games against top six teams this season Arsenal have won only once - a 3-0 win versus pre-3-4-3 Chelsea. The likelihood of a third FA Cup win in four years is slim.
Spurs' form has fallen off in April and May in each of the two previous seasons under Mauricio Pochettino (they collected 11 points from their final eight league games in 2015 and nine points from seven in 2016), something critics have put down to the Argentine's demanding tactics. Spurs' high-energy pressing game begins to tire in the spring, and so their FA Cup run could come to a limp end even if they reach the final four, which takes place April 22-23.
Pochettino's team struggled to get past Wycombe Wanderers in the last round after making nine changes but will be forced to do something similar when they travel to Fulham; they fly back from Belgium (from a Europa League game against Gent) less than 48 hours before their FA Cup fifth-round tie. Maintaining momentum in all three competitions will be particularly difficult for the hardest working - and thinnest - squad amongst the Premier League's top six. Don't back them.