While the FA Cup draw sees Manchester United face Wolves yet again in this evening’s all-Premiership clash, the other tie taking place tonight might be a little more interesting for the neutral. Championship side Cardiff head north to take on Carlisle from League Two. The hosts will feel relatively confident of springing an upset, given how the first game between the sides played out – not to mention the Welsh side’s seeming indifference to cup competition.
A trip to Reading – which at the present time feels like a winnable tie – lies in wait for the winner. For reference, the Berkshire club lie two places below the Bluebirds in the Championship table, so if Carlisle can progress tonight, it isn’t beyond belief that they could deliver another surprise when the Fourth Round is played over January’s final weekend. However, it’s also worth considering whether the Cumbrians have already missed their best chance to pull off a shock in the competition by losing a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 in Wales in the original tie.
Every chance of a high scoring match
The joy of Carlisle’s achievement in taking their opponents to the brink of elimination is that this was not a tie that people looked at as ripe for a “cupset”. The Blues sit in 21st place in League Two, with just three sides separating them from the bottom of the Football League. They have conceded 43 goals in league competition, with only Morecambe conceding more in the division. A home tie against Carlisle was, outside of a non-league opponent, about as forgiving as Cardiff could have hoped for.
With that said, Cardiff themselves are no great shakes at the back, with 40 conceded in 27 games. The one thing that we can confidently say is that there is reason to expect goals in this cup tie. Whether they will be as evenly-shared as they were on the first weekend of the month is another matter, but the facts are that neither side can consider themselves to have a decisive lead at any stage in the contest this evening – there is every chance of a repeat of the initial meeting. As such, Paddy Power’s odds of 8/11 on Both Teams To Score look more than tempting.
This isn’t Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City
In marked contrast to fellow Welsh side Swansea, Cardiff’s jaunts into the Premier League have been achieved off the back of, and maintained as far as possible by, keeping things tight. They’ve usually not scored many, and sought to concede as few as possible. Last season’s spell in the top flight was overseen by Neil Warnock, a manager known for a pugilistic approach to the game. He has since left the job, to be replaced by Neil Harris – and the result seems to be a more open Cardiff side, but much of that openness is in their defence.
At half-time of the original game between these sides, Cardiff were booed off by a crowd that could not believe they were trailing 2-0 to a League Two side. Given that they have also recently lost 6-1 to QPR, it might just be entirely believable that the Championship side can be so brittle at the back. You can get odds of 9/5 with Betway that there will be more than 3.5 goals in this game, and it’s entirely reasonable to think that will be the outcome.
Distracted Cardiff could be ripe for the picking
It’s not out of the question that Carlisle could yet fall to bottom spot in the League Two table and experience relegation from the Football League. It’s also entirely possible that they could progress from this tie and also prove a testing opponent to the equally fallible Reading. The FA Cup can bring surprises, and that’s before you even consider that there might not be much of a surprise in Cardiff losing tonight. The Bluebirds have always seemed more interested in getting back into the promotion battle than they are in making incremental progress in knockout competitions they’re highly unlikely to win.
That’s not how the bookies see it, though, and there might be some benefit for the punter in this regard. The hosts are priced at 5/2 to progress here by STSBet – 21/5 that it will happen within the 90 minutes. If they are capable of getting themselves 2-0 up in an away game, then it’s more than possible that Carlisle could, with a supportive home crowd, complete the job this evening and get themselves into the next round. It’s possible, indeed, that they could do that without Cardiff really minding that much.
Bets of the Day
Carlisle to qualify (5/2, STSBet); More than 3.5 goals (Betway, 9/5); BTTS (Paddy Power, 8/11)