The business end of the football season may be rapidly approaching, but some teams can still give their fans a reason to celebrate. For Everton and Chelsea, the FA Cup is a chance to please their fans – and the punters – after inconsistent seasons, but only one can progress after Saturday’s Quarter Final.
Everton have shown their attacking potential this season, having scored 29 league goals at Goodison Park to post the second-best home production after 15 games. Among the key contributors are youngsters Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley, who have scored 18 and eight in the league respectively. A good performance from both players would give Everton an even better chance in this cup tie.
Meanwhile, the Toffees could further improve their chances by strengthening a defence that has conceded 26 league goals at home. Everton’s squad has talented defenders in Phil Jagielka, John Stones, Leighton Baines and Séamus Coleman; if manager Roberto Martínez can bring them together as a unit, it will help the team to repel Chelsea’s attack.
It appears that Everton’s potential has earned them respect among the bookies. Winner Sports has priced Everton at 31/20 to win in 90 minutes, while Chelsea are available at 13/8. The event of a draw is worth 5/2 to punters.
Chelsea have already had two memorable encounters with Everton this season. After losing 3-1 at Goodison Park in September, the Blues struck late in their January rematch to salvage a 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge. For this next meeting, interim manager Guus Hiddink has to encourage a defence that conceded six goals in two games against the Toffees.
Since their 3-3 draw, however, Chelsea have shown signs of defensive improvement by not conceding more than two goals in any competition. Over that period, Chelsea have not lost a game where they've let in one goal or fewer. Only a Champions League collapse against PSG on Wednesday night would end that record before facing Everton.
Nevertheless, Hiddink does need to think about his defence, considering that club captain John Terry could miss both games this week with a hamstring injury. His absence, at a time when fellow defender Kurt Zouma is out with a long-term knee injury, will likely see Branislav Ivanović continue to play at centre-back, like he did in the 1-1 draw with Stoke City.
The Stoke game was also notable for how Hiddink used John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matić in central midfield. Both are defensively minded and can give Chelsea’s more creative players the freedom they need to attack Everton. Willian and Pedro could show striker Diego Costa greater support with two anchormen behind them.
Winner Sports has made Chelsea 13/8 to win in 90 minutes, but the tense nature of the FA Cup could raise the prospect of extra time. If this happens, it will please the punters who picked a team to qualify instead. Those who back Chelsea can get odds of 1/2, while those who choose to support Everton can get 27/20.
Winner Sports has many more betting markets in this game. Betting under 0.5 goals in the first half at 19/10 could work out well if both teams are tense in those 45 minutes. A similar option would be to pick the second half at 10/11 to have more goals.
Come the weekend, other betting markets will open up, including the player markets. Costa’s return of eight goals since January could make him an option to score first or at any time. Lukaku could also be a good option for those markets, considering he has scored four in his last five games.
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