THE final match in the FA Cup Fourth Round sees League One Rochdale host Stoke. Any chance of another upset Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79)?
Rochdale v Stoke | Monday 20:05 | BT Sport 1
We're still in January, but a cursory glance at the outright odds for the FA Cup shows Stoke sitting in the first five in the betting. If I was a fan of the club I'd be getting a wee bit excited.
The exit of Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Southampton at the weekend has left the Cup door ajar and given tangible hope to middle-ranking sides in the competition. West Ham and Stoke look the most interesting.
They look the only Premier League sides left in the draw without either of the twin concerns of qualifying for the Champions League or staying up occupying their mind. If they manage to avoid the big three of Man Utd, Arsenal or Liverpool in the The One Show housed Fifth Round draw on Monday then May 30th might start to be encircled in the calendar of fans and club alike.
But whoa there fella! Stoke need to win this game first. Indeed, a trip to Rochdale would have been laughably easy in the past, but not now that Keith Hill's in charge.
I don't think enough has been made of Dale's superb season in the media. This club were marooned in the bottom Football League tier for 41 years until Hill got them promoted in 2010. They now sit 5th in League One, and if the season ended now it would be their best ever league finish. Wow!
Can they beat Stoke though at best price 5/1 with Betfred? Not for me. Despite seeing off Nottingham Forest at Spotland earlier in the month, their home form has been patchy with just one win in five. They sit 16th in the Home Table.
As I intimated earlier, this is a massive opportunity for Stoke. Their 2011 FA Cup Final appearance seemed to cement them into the Premier League wallpaper and manager Mark Hughes tends not to take this competition lightly.
Since he took over as Stoke boss at the start of the 2013/14 season his side have been eliminated from the Cup competitions by Chelsea, Man Utd and Southampton. Hardly shameful.
I'm pretty sure, as the Americans say, he'll be pumped for this and with concerns over whether his opposite number Hill will be at the game due to a virus I think this could be straight-forward for the Potters.
I'll back them -1 on the Asian Handicap at 15/13 with BetVictor. I'd like to think they can win by two clear goals but if it's just one I'll get my cash back. Stoke can't afford to turn down an opportunity like this.
Rochdale v Stoke – Stoke -1 Asian Handicap (15/13 BetVictor)