Thursday, 24 January 2013

Six Championship clubs eyeing fifth-round spots

While most of the attention surrounding the FA Cup fourth round will focus on Premier League teams and possible giant-killing fixtures, there are six Championship clubs going head-to-head with league rivals to earn a place in the fifth round.

No doubt Derby v Blackburn, Hull v Barnsley and Huddersfield v Leicester will see little air time on Match of the Day Saturday evening, but just ask fans of this Championship sextuple if they care about progressing or not. The answer will overwhelmingly be positive, and up against opponents from the same league all six teams will fancy their chances on Saturday.

Looking at the FA Cup betting, as well as the form guide, Leicester appear favourites to progress, sitting as they do second in the league against 18th placed Huddersfield. They beat the Terriers 6-1 at the Walkers Stadium on New Year’s day and have won both ties ever played between the two at the John Smiths (formerly the Galpharm) Stadium.

Derby and Blackburn must both fancy their chances between each other: just one point separating the pair in the league and equal on +1 goal difference. These sides have played more than 100 competitive fixtures over the years and in October shared a 1-1 draw at Pride Park. Expect another close encounter with neither side showing good form of late.

Possibly the most enticing Championship tie of the fourth round is relegation-threatened Barnsley’s trip east, where a Hull side stuck in a rut awaits. This cross-Yorkshire derby saw Hull sneak a 1-0 win earlier in the season but under new boss David Flitcroft the Tykes have begun to turn things around. They have won two of their last three matches and rose off the bottom of the table – a feat few fans in the thought would happen.The best value tips football -wise this weekend could well be with the Tykes.

Hull are without a win in five matches (excluding their extra-time exploits over Leyton Orient in round three) and harbour hopes of gaining promotion this season, so Steve Bruce’s side may waver their Cup efforts and not prove the formidable opponents their league position suggests. If Flitcroft can inspire his troops to continue their purple patch an upset is very much on the cards.

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