Manchester United and Everton do battle at Wembley this weekend with a place in the FA Cup final on the line (5.15pm Saturday live on BBC1).
Both clubs from the northwest have endured difficult campaigns, with respective managers Louis van Gaal and Roberto Martinez under pressure to deliver a piece of silverware after underachieving in the Premier League this term.
Man Utd’s 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Wednesday night has moved them to within two points of the top four, but a large number of the Red Devils’ supporters still consider their side’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League to be slim. Many United fans will therefore be desperate to see Everton overcome on Saturday, with the 20-time top-tier champions hoping to get their hands on what would be a 12th FA Cup trophy next month. It would be only a second since the start of the 21st century but they are the bookies’ favourites to achieve it.
A 4-0 loss to Merseyside and city rivals Liverpool on Wednesday night was arguably the nadir of Everton’s very disappointing season. The Toffees are set for a second successive bottom-half finish despite possessing one of the best squads in the division outside of the traditional top six teams. The dire nature of his team’s display at Anfield has led to reports that Martinez will be relieved of his duties in the summer and the FA Cup is Everton’s only remaining chance of salvaging their 2015/16 campaign.
Despite playing some fine attacking football at times, Everton have been undone by poor defending, a lack of a pragmatic edge and an inability to effectively manage games. Eighteen Premier League points have been thrown away from winning positions this term, more than anyone else in the top flight, and that is evidence of what has gone wrong at Goodison Park.
Van Gaal will be without Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee), Adnan Januzaj (hamstring), Will Keane (groin) and Luke Shaw (broken leg), but the injuries at Man Utd have generally eased up in recent weeks, with the likes of Wayne Rooney (pictured), Antonio Valencia and Marcos Rojo all returning to action in the Red Devils’ last few games.
Rooney played in an unfamiliar midfield role in what was an attacking line-up against Palace on Wednesday. The England international is likely to be moved into the No.10 position this weekend, behind lone striker Marcus Rashford. Jesse Lingard could be the man to drop out, with Anthony Martial and Juan Mata the leading candidates for roles out wide in Van Gaal’s favoured 4-2-3-1 configuration.
Everton, meanwhile, will be unable to call upon the services of Ramiro Funes Mori, who was sent off in the aforementioned embarrassment at Anfield, while Seamus Coleman (hamstring), Phil Jagielka (hamstring) and Tyias Browning (knee) are all set to miss out through injury. John Stones and Gareth Barry should recover from illness and a knock respectively in time to feature, though, with Everton’s attacking players all fit and available for selection.
Our Preview’s Everton v Man Utd Betting Tips Verdict
Taking everything into account, it is difficult to look past a Manchester United victory at Wembley on Saturday evening. Everton are far too open at the back and easy to play through, and while Martinez’s charges are capable of causing opponents problems at the other end, United have shown themselves to be reasonably solid defensively throughout the 2015/16 campaign.
Van Gaal’s outfit should therefore have enough about them to progress to the final, with the odds on a 2-1 victory pretty favourable. In terms of the goalscorer markets, backing Martial to get his name on the scoresheet before anyone else could represent another good value wager. Here are our preview’s betting tips: