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Fourth-round drama should alter Villa's FA Cup strategy

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Thanks to an improbable series of upsets in the first two days of the FA Cup's fourth round, Aston Villa could find themselves with a plum draw if they can beat Bournemouth tomorrow. Swansea City, Southampton, Chelsea, and Manchester City have all been eliminated thus far thanks to some great upsets. Manchester United still have to play a replay against League Two side Cambridge United.

With eight matches left to play (or, five matches and three replays), here's a list of what we know about the fifth round already:

  • At least six of the teams will be from the lower leagues. Four Championship teams have already advanced, as has one League One side. The sixth team will come from the replay between League One sides Preston North End and Sheffield United.
  • The number of lower-league teams could jump to twelve if Cambridge United could pull off the massive upset, Fulham could beat Sunderland in their replay, and if Bolton, Bristol, Bournemouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, and Rochdale won.
  • Since we're looking at best-case scenarios for Villa, eleven is the lucky number. That would mean fully 73% of Villa's possible opponents would be from below the Premier League.
  • That eleven is unlikely to happen. Cambridge probably lose, as do most of the other possibilities. But given the fact that upsets are pretty regular in the cup, it wouldn't shock me to see two more occur. That'd leave us at eight teams from below the Premier League. That would be eight of Aston Villa's fifteen potential opponents, or 53%.
  • And even if luck doesn't smile on Villa that much, a number of the toughest Premier League opponents are already out. Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Southampton are all gone, and Manchester United and Liverpool could follow.
Now, given recent history, it may be better to have Villa not play lower league sides (especially Bradford, ugh), but the number of upsets early in the fourth round of the cup may give Paul Lambert reason to reconsider his approach to the FA Cup. A win tomorrow combined with some lucky results elsewhere could be the beginning of an easy road to the quarterfinals or maybe even the semis. Coming into the weekend, I was prepared to have Villa not take the FA Cup seriously and focus on league play, but the way things have worked out, it suddenly seems as if this might be a good year to focus on one of football's most prestigious trophies. What do you think? Should the results today change the way Villa view the FA Cup? Let us know below!