Rochdale v Stoke City: FA Cup

Rochdale v Stoke City

Rochdale v Stoke City from Spotland tonight…

It has been an FA Cup fourth round of perhaps unprecedented shock value, with none of the nine teams above Stoke in the Premier League who were in action on Friday or Saturday winning.

Chelsea, Man City, Southampton and Tottenham were felled at home by lesser opposition – two divisions lesser in Chelsea’s case – Swansea lost at Blackburn, Man United were held away by League Two side Cambridge and Liverpool couldn’t get past Bolton at Anfield.

However, don’t let any of those high-profile upsets distract you from the fact that Stoke are exceptional value at 1.7 to beat a team two leagues and, because FA Cup protocol demands that we address the gulf in such a manner, 39 places below them.

Mark Hughes might not yet have the trophies to make such a fact obvious, but he is a coach who takes the cups seriously. He has faced lower-league opponents in the FA Cup on four occasions this decade while in charge of three different clubs (one of them cup humiliation magnets QPR), and his men triumphed in 90 minutes every time.

Stoke share their manager’s knack of avoiding FA Cup embarrassment. They have played 22 times in the competition this decade and their only defeats in that period were inflicted by Man City (twice), Chelsea (twice) and Liverpool, and the latter four of those were by one-goal margins.

Opta help note that the Potters have won four and drawn the other of their past five FA Cup trips to lower-league sides. They also reveal that Rochdale have vanquished a top-tier adversary once in their FA Cup existence, and have been to the fifth round just twice, most recently in 2003.

Rochdale’s journey this far hasn’t been as glorious as you might expect of a club whose participation began in the first round. They required replays to see off Northampton of League Two’s bottom half and Aldershot, who are fighting relegation in the Conference, then had the fortune of welcoming Nottingham Forest when Stuart Pearce’s squad were hideously out of form.

Such a label can’t be forced on Stoke, who have beenvictorious in four of their six games since Christmas, with their sole reverse inflicted by Arsenal at the Emirates.

Their hosts aren’t even that convincing at Spotland in League One, losing three of their last five such fixtures and winning an unsatisfactory four of their overall 13 encounters.

Back Stoke to win @ 1.7

Back Over 2.5 goals @ 2.45

Back Over 3.5 cards @ 2.2

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