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.