Everton vs. Liverpool
A fascinating clash of styles is brought together in the pairing of these two teams in the F.A. Cup semi-final. Everton have not sought to bring into their squad the type of marquee player that Liverpool have been recruiting over the past year. Yet the Toffees are a functional unit that has improved throughout the season and now find themselves above their city rivals in the league table and can boast better recent form. Liverpool’s recent problems have been well documented and the unavailability of their two first choice goalkeepers is not a positive development. The odds for the over 2.5 goals market suggest that there will be around 24 attempts at goal throughout regulation time. This gives the promise of a open game but the reality could be very different as neither team will look to overcommit to attack in the early stages of the game. Everton will have in mind to test the unfamiliar Liverpool goalkeeper, Bradley Jones. Indeed, both sides have seen a significant proportion of their goals arrive from set pieces this season. As a result, Liverpool will be keen to contain Baines on the left flank from marauding forward. It will probably be of surprise to discover that Everton have won a significantly greater number of offsides throughout the campaign than Liverpool have. It is doubtful that Liverpool will press any higher up the field than usual given the change in goalkeeper. Agger’s return is a bonus as he is a talented ball carrier out of defence giving an alternative option to the long ball route forward. Everton will look to congest the middle of the field and switch the ball to the flanks. Both Anchibe and Jelavic are in goalscoring form and give Everton as much attacking threat as they have had all season. The two sides are closely matched so it’s hard to rationalise why Liverpool are clear favourites in the ninety minutes betting given their inconsistent recent form. Everton’s ability and unity will stand to them on the big occasion. The draw no bet option is attractive seeing as they are more than capable of holding Liverpool in normal time and have the weaponary to win the game.
Recommended bet: Back Everton draw no bet.
Norwich vs. Man. City
Whether City can benefit from the lifeline thrown to them in the title race remains to be seen as their trip to Carrow Road will be stern examination of their desire to stay in the battle. Norwich have been a great addition to the top flight this season and will be full of confidence after beating Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Monday. They are the seventh highest scoring team in the division. At this stage of proceedings it’s hard to see them changing their approach of pushing up in defence to win offsides and this probably accounts for the fact that only five teams have conceded more goals this season. Aguero and Nasri are masters at finding space in behind high lines and are just the type of player to give Norwich trouble. We are at the stage of the season where simple goalscoring chances are made to look difficult as the tension of the situation is allowed to encroach. There remains the possibility that despite dominating possession, City could take a while to break the deadlock and 4-7 about them winning the game could look a small price approaching half time. It will be more surprising if City do not have the majority of the efforts at goal and hence win a significantly greater number of corners in the process. For all their shortcomings in recent weeks they remain a quality team who retain possession as well as anyone else in the league.
Recommended bet: Back Man. City in the race to 4 corners.
Sunderland vs. Wolverhampton
Wolves have persisted in employing the offside trap among their defensive tactics and clearly it is something that hasn’t worked for them this season. They have shipped more than seventy goals throughout the league programme and they find themselves in a perilous position. By using a high line they do congest the midfield area and games with Wolves can be scrappy in nature. Martin O’Neill will have to have his troops motivated from the off. The over 2.5 goals market suggests that there will be around 28 chances in front of goal during the game. These numbers give the promise of a very open encounter and Sunderland have the personnel to take advantage of such opportunities. Wolves will try to counter down the flanks using the pace of their wingers but as a team they always seem to be on the back foot due to their leaky defence. Sunderland have been excellent at home of late and only Arsenal and Tottenham have come away from the Stadium of Light with points in the last six games. The most likely outcome of this game is a home win and without needing to complicate the situation backing Sunderland to take the three points seems to be the most sensible course of action.
Recommended bet: Back Sunderland.