English FA Cup

Everton v Chelsea | Saturday 12 March | Goodison Park | 19:30

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Everton 37/20
Draw 23/10
Chelsea 14/10

Chelsea will travel to Premier League rivals Everton on Saturday in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. The Toffees won the corresponding Premier League fixture 3-1 in September, thanks to Steven Naismith’s perfect hat-trick. The return at Stamford Bridge in the beginning of the year ended in highly controversial circumstances. Everton went 3-2 ahead in the dying moments of normal time but were pegged back when John Terry scored in the ninth minute of time added on, and from an offside position. The tie will also represent a rematch of the 2009 FA Cup final, when Guus Hiddink was in charge of the Chelsea side which came from behind to defeat David Moyes’ Everton.

Everton
Lifting the FA Cup in 2013 with Wigan Athletic helped Roberto Martinez persuade the Toffees he was the right man to succeed Moyes. But this season, Everton’s results have caused growing exasperation amongst supporters, who are frustrated that Martinez is not getting the right results from arguably the club’s best squad in a decade. Everton fans will be desperate for a positive result against Chelsea in the FA Cup, with the Toffees hoping to earn silverware after a 20 year drought. Martinez’s men progressed to the last eight with a 2-0 win at Bournemouth last month, thanks to goals from Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku. Everton have struggled at Goodison Park this season having won just Click-to-bet-now-300x40four from 15 games, losing seven times. They’ve conceded the most goals (26) at home. The Toffees did, however, beat Chelsea 3-1 at home earlier in the season before Jose Mourinho’s departure. Everton will be looking to repeat that feat while becoming the first Premier League team to beat Hiddink’s side. The Toffees play an exciting flexible style of football, adept at pressing high up on the pitch and also sit deep if need be and catch teams on the counter with ruthless efficiency. They work extremely hard and have a boundless energy which is capable of overwhelming opponents. Barkley runs the show in midfield with his quick-feet and fantastic dribbling skills. He can turn defence into attack in a matter of seconds and has the ability to create something out of nothing. Lukaku will come up against his former side, hoping to finally score against them since he left West London two years ago. Lukaku’s speed and agility, in addition to his aggression, make him a serious threat piercing the channels. He can occupy defenders and create space for others but he’s at his most dangerous spinning in behind and breaching the channel between centre-back and full-back. The powerful Belgian striker has scored 23 goals in all competitions and will be looking to add to his tally.

Chelsea
Chelsea breezed into the quarter-finals with a 5-1 win over a Manchester City side full of youngsters. The Blues are in prime contention and favourites to win this season’s FA Cup. Now with Manchester City out of the tournament, there are few teams that pose a real threat to Chelsea when they’re at their best. In the event that the Blues defeat Everton, a few teams that remain on the platter could potentially be Arsenal or Manchester United. Chelsea’s record against Arsenal speaks for itself and they hold an impressive record against United dating back to 2012. The FA Cup is Chelsea’s best chance of winning a trophy and Hiddink would love to land some silverware before making way for the inevitable arrival of Italy boss Antonio Conte. The league champions are still unbeaten in domestic play under Hiddink. They’ve lost once—to Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes—in all competitions since the Dutchman took the reins for the second time. Initially the football was a little dreary and safe—there were too many draws padding out the unbeaten record—but over the last month the Blues have really begun to click, and now a finish as high as sixth place is achievable. For a long time Willian was Chelsea’s sole bright spark; he toiled and persevered when many in blue appeared to have given up. Now, the rest of the team have perked up and he has, in turn, raised his level. Right now he’s one of the best players in the Premier League, capable of single-handedly changing a game in the same way Eden Hazard was last season. Diego Costa’s goalscoring form is a big reason for Chelsea looking more like the team we know. He has scored 10 goals since Christmas and the calming influence of Hiddink is clearly having the desired effect on the Spanish scrapper. He’s back running the channels, focusing on what he does best, which is finding the back of the net.

Probable line-ups:

Everton: 4-2-3-1
Joel; Coleman, Funes Mori, Jagielka, Oviedo; Barry, McCarthy; Lennon, Mirallas, Barkley; Lukaku

Chelsea: 4-2-3-1
Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Ivanovic; Mikel, Fabregas; Pedro, Hazard, Willian; Costa

Prediction: Chelsea
Hiddink has restored last season’s title-winning mindset in the Chelsea team and they are playing attractive football. Chelsea have won five of their previous eight meetings with Everton, losing twice. The Toffees have struggled at home this season and Hiddink’s side are tipped to reign victorious.

Chadley Nagel

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