From a young age, if you are the ‘first’ to do something, it gives you an advantage over others. If you were the first one to pass your driving test you immediately become the envy of your friends, and even a clapped out 1998 Fiat Punto can become a remarkably good pulling technique. If you were the first to turn 18 an untold amount of people would want to become your friend, even if you knew they were blatantly using you to get their hands on two liters of White Lightning.
And history suggests, if you score first in an FA Cup quarter-final, you’re almost certainly going to make the final four.
In the last 15 years of FA Cup quarter-final clashes, the team that has scored first goes on to make the semi-final 85 per cent of the time. That’s a massive advantage, and a strong trend which suggests that if your side takes the lead, it’s probably best to start booking your travel to Wembley and making sure you have a good excuse lined up in case you pull a sickie on the Monday.
Heading into the weekend’s fixtures, it also leaves us with an enticing 7/1 treble if the trend continues. We’ve decided for the health of our punt to leave the Aston Villa v West Brom game out of our gamble, purely because, no matter what the trends, we wouldn’t trust Tim Sherwood to pick us up a pint of milk let alone have some cold hard cash riding on his side.
In the opening clash between Bradford (8/5) and Reading (13/8), the Bantams have the edge scoring first in 59 per cent of their home league games this year and bagging first in all three of their home FA Cup ties. In comparison their opponents Reading have opened the scoring away from home in less than a quarter of their Championship games, posing as much threat in front of goal as a drunk goat.
Liverpool (1/3) face Blackburn (15/2) on Sunday, and all the stats are pointing towards the Reds opening the scoring, and going on to book their trip down south. Brendan Rodgers’ men have opened the scoring in 80 per cent of their league games at Anfield this season – including their last three home games against Burnley, Tottenham and Manchester City. Sunday’s opponents might not be quite of the same calibre as City or Spurs, and Blackburn should be bracing themselves for 90 minutes of punishment that Anastasia Steele could only dream of.
In Monday night’s clash of the giants, Manchester United (13/10) marginally have the edge over great rivals Arsenal (2/1). Louis van Gaal’s side have been as reliable on the road as George Michael this season, but at Old Trafford it’s a different story. The Red Devils have taken the lead in 79 per cent of their home league games, and while Arsenal have scored first in 67 per cent of their away games, United have opened the scoring in each of the last five times the Gunners have visited OT.
The 7/1 treble is for Man United, Liverpool and Bradford to win in 90 minutes, although it’s worth considering the possibility of a replay. The trend is that 85 per cent of teams that score first will make the semi-final, although five of those 51 games ended up being decided by a replay. If you want to cover your back even more so, Bradford, Liverpool and Man Utd to qualify for the semi-finals (by hook or by crook) pays out around 7/2.
A tenner on the three teams to qualify pays out £45, or approximately 11 bottles of White Lightning back in the day…