— The Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 26, 2020
Under normal circumstances, you would back Liverpool to beat League One Shrewsbury in a one-off knockout game. After all, the Merseyside team are on course to win the Premier League title by a healthy margin, while the Shrews are languishing in 16th place in the English third tier.
However, the FA Cup does not provide normal circumstances and anyone looking to wager on the tournament needs to understand the unique factors that can come into play.
The Fourth Round game between Shrewsbury and Liverpool highlighted one quirk of the competition as Liverpool chose to rest several first-choice players.
This created a much more level playing field and gave the home side a massive boost. The Premier League side started well but was soon pegged back by the underdogs who forced a replay after a 2-2 draw.
Red’s boss Jurgen Klopp then revealed that he would not be present for the second game and would send out a U23 side. Anyone banking on a Liverpool win at Anfield was suddenly forced to rethink their 2019/20 FA Cup betting strategy as the price on the Reds drifted dramatically.
“We will have a winter break, which means we will not be there.”
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 27, 2020
A lack of focus
With so much riding on the Premier League and the Champions League, top teams are often forced to prioritise certain trophies.
For Liverpool, the League and FA Cups have not been the focus of their attention this season. They essentially sacrificed the League Cup to secure their first-ever Club World Cup in late 2019 and are now aiming for their first League title in 30 years while defending their Champions League crown. In Klopp’s eyes, something had to give.
Even full-strength teams can slip up
When a top Premier League side puts out a full-strength team, the results are usually more predictable.
Manchester United’s 6-0 win away to Tranmere Rovers proved that the gulf between the Premier League’s top six and League One is huge when both sides are fully committed to the cause.
In the case of Manchester City, their strength in depth is such that even their second-choice team is full of world-class stars.
They won the trophy without too much trouble last season. However, back in 2018, they were dumped out in the Fifth Round by Championship side Wigan Athletic – despite fielding an almost full-strength side.
The FA Cup is still capable of throwing up shocks, even when the odds seem stacked in one team’s favour.
Nothing to lose
If you combine the big team’s tendencies to rest players with the smaller side’s nothing-to-lose attitude in these games, you get results like the one at the New Meadow Stadium where the form book goes out the window.
Let’s not forget, a weakened Liverpool side knocked Everton out in the Third Round, so earning a draw was no easy task for Shrewsbury. For the home players and fans, the game had the feel of a cup final while for Liverpool, it was merely a distraction from more serious matters.
The FA Cup may have a lost a little of its magic for the big teams. But for lower league sides, the prospect of a giant-killing still makes it irresistible. And all of the above factors need to be taken into consideration when wagering on the competition.