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Talking Point: The FA Cup - one big fix?

Talking Point: The FA Cup - one big fix?
I COULD have told you the F.A Cup semi-final draw last Sunday morning. I don't buy into fortune telling and I don't read into what the stars have got in for me but I knew full-well that the winner of the Manchester United-Chelsea tie would play Manchester City.

Now that statement was obviously dependent on City getting through against Barnsley, but it was highly unlikely the Citizens were going to falter against a side in the bottom three of the relegation zone.

Obviously the result of the Manchester United v Chelsea tie was up in the air, but in truth, it didn't matter. Whatever the outcome of that replay is, whenever it is eventually played, the winner was only ever going to play Manchester City in the F.A Cup semis.

So how can I make these statements with such conviction you ask?

It's a pattern that's been repeating itself for years. I want to believe in the sanctity of the F.A Cup, but I can't any longer.

Every year we have ties such as Chelsea or United v City in the latter stages (quarter-finals onwards) without fail. Just take a look at the last two seasons -

2011-12 Semis:

Everton v Liverpool

Tottenham v Chelsea

2010-11 Semis:

City v United

Bolton V Stoke

Now obviously the chances of that are quite high when the strongest teams traditionally reach the latter stages of the cup, but with more and more teams falling by the wayside in earlier rounds in the last few years, it falls to the Football Association to fix it slightly.

Had the winner of Manchester United v Chelsea drawn Blackburn, Millwall or Wigan, the result would have been as good as a forgone conclusion.

The same goes for City drawing any of the three underdogs left in the cup. The result of which would have been two dud semi-finals before a final between two strong teams which would have resulted in a tight, cagey affair with Didier Drogba winning it - or at least that's how the last five finals have played out in my memory.

Apart from the winning finalist, nobody wants to see that.

And, whilst giant v minnow finals don't create much of a spectacle - see the recent League Cup walkover between Swansea City & Bradford City - they do at least generate a bit of a buzz before Goliath mercilessly and nonchalantly slays David.

However, semi-finals between Blackburn/Milwall and Wigan or Manchester United/Chelsea and Manchester City are at least reasonably balanced. The two teams on show are likely to produce an even contest and a watchable game as a result.

On top of that, the F.A and ITV get their payday when the heavyweights clash.

Then inevitably the heavyweight that survives the semi-final wins the cup in boring fashion, but by then we're all too tied up in the romance of Millwall/Blackburn/Wigan reaching the final in the first place. Plus, it's the F.A Cup, it's a ritual to watch it in spite of the drivel on display.

I'm not saying any of this is fact, I've no proof of course, but this has happened all too often and this occasion it's just one coincidence too many.

Writer:Tom Bodell
Date:Wednesday March 13 2013
Time: 3:55PM

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