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  • Jul 14, 2014
  • Updated: 12:32pm
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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 March, 2013, 3:48am

ManU look value at Old Trafford

Chelsea will face the full wrath of Ferguson's squad, who look good value at Old Trafford

BIO

Nick has been SCMP’s tipster since soccer betting was launched in Hong Kong in 2003, having previously served as racing editor. He takes a statistical approach to soccer betting, focusing mainly on the English Premier League but also on the other major European leagues and the English lower divisions. Now based in England, he brings a wealth of experience as a punter and writer having also worked for the Sunday Times, Racing Post and Betfair during a 25-year career in sports betting journalism.
 

The treble dream is over for Manchester United after their controversial Champions League exit and they must pick themselves up quickly if they are to stay on course for the double in tomorrow's FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea.

United were regular double winners in the 1990s but they haven't achieved the feat since the treble in 1999, mainly because of the FA Cup. Alex Ferguson's team haven't won the FA Cup since 2004 and their latest final appearance - a 1-0 extra-time defeat by Chelsea - was in 2007.

Perhaps that reflects a greater emphasis on the Premier League and Champions League - United have appeared in more finals of the Champions League than the FA Cup in the past eight years - but the hurt of Tuesday's defeat by Real Madrid should act as a spur towards the double.

Winning only the Premier League, which they seem certain to do, may not feel like enough for United after such an outstanding season and what was shaping up on Tuesday as one of their finest performances until Nani's sending-off.

United start as strong favourites with home advantage tomorrow, but they are up against the new kings of the FA Cup.

Chelsea have lifted the trophy four times in the past six years and, incredibly, they haven't lost an FA Cup match in normal play since the quarter-final stage five years ago, when Barnsley inflicted a shock defeat.

Chelsea's only exit from the competition since then was on penalties at Everton in the fourth round two years ago. Since the defeat at Barnsley, their FA Cup record in 90-minute play is won 25, drawn five and lost none. Although few of those games were against elite opposition, the record merits respect.

Old Trafford, however, is just as difficult a venue for Chelsea as it is for most other clubs. They have lost six of their past eight visits, with just one win. In fact, since that win at Old Trafford in the Premier League almost three years ago, Chelsea have beaten United only once more in nine attempts in 90-minute play, home or away.

That reflects Chelsea's general decline as an English power and, for the second year running, they trail United by almost 20 points in the Premier League table as spring approaches.

The question this weekend is whether on not Chelsea can raise the level of their game, as cup specialists often do, to the level United reach on a consistent basis.

Overall form suggests victory for United. They have won 13 of 14 at home in the Premier League, as well as five of six in other competitions before their 10 men were beaten on Tuesday by Real Madrid.

Tottenham, second only to United on league away form, are the only English team to have won at Old Trafford this season.

Chelsea's away form is not as good as Tottenham's. They have won only half of their away games in the Premier League and, perhaps most notably, have not kept a clean sheet in any of their six visits to top-half opponents.

United almost always score at Old Trafford and usually win when they do so. In the past three seasons, in games against Premier League opposition in all competitions, United have scored in 61 and won 54 (89 per cent). At the odds they look a good bet to win tomorrow, with Chelsea are coming off an away tripin the Europa League.

Over 2.5 goals is also a good bet. The expectation nowadays is that about 70 per cent of big-six clashes will produce over 2.5 goals and the percentage has been even higher in recent United-Chelsea matches, with 10 of the past 12 going over 2.5 goals.

The other FA Cup games make little appeal, as Manchester City and Everton are both short odds and the all-Championship match between Millwall and Blackburn involves the two worst teams from that division on current form. Blackburn might be worth chancing at the odds, as Millwall's decline is linked to player departures and looks more permanent, but it is only guesswork.

Over 2.5 goals looks a good bet in the big match in the Premier League, Liverpool v Tottenham, and the in-form visitors are worth considering on the handicap. Liverpool are yet to beat any team above them in the table and Tottenham's away record is solid.

Newcastle appeal on recent form against poor travellers Stoke, but they are a risk at the odds after their trip to Russia in the Europa League.

 


Best Bets

  1. Manchester United home win Chelsea's defence looks unlikely to hold out
  2. Nottingham Forest home win Good value to continue their impressive revival
  3. Watford home win Have won eight of their past 11 league games
  4. Valencia on handicap Only Real Madrid have beaten them in their past 10 league games
  5. Hamburg on handicap Solid chance against out-of-form Stuttgart

 

Shortlist

Manchester United, Nottingham Forest, Watford, Valencia, Freiburg, Hamburg, Inter.

 

Fixtures

Today (11pm unless stated)

Premier League
Reading v Aston Villa, Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland, Norwich City v Southampton, West Bromwich Albion v Swansea City

FA Cup quarter-finals
Everton v Wigan Athletic (8.45pm), Manchester City v Barnsley (1.30am Sun)

Tomorrow

Premier League
Newcastle United v Stoke City (11pm), Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur (12am Mon)

FA Cup quarter-finals
Millwall v Blackburn Rovers (10pm), Manchester United v Chelsea (12.30am Mon)

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