Weblog: The football punter

Wembley comforts may not save Tottenham

FA Cup semi-final
BBC1, 5.15pm Saturday

Tottenham are the only team ever to lose seven straight FA Cup semi-finals and their recent agony in this competition may not be finished just yet as Manchester United look value outsiders to triumph at Wembley.

The whole key to this tie from a betting point of view rests on how much to allow for Tottenham's supposed home advantage.

Both managers insist it won't be a decisive factor for the semi-final to be played at Tottenham's temporary home for the season, but bookmakers appear to disagree.

Spurs are almost exactly the same price to beat United as they were for the Premier League encounter at the same venue in January, which they won 2-0.

To determine how much home advantage would first need punters to grasp what is home advantage. Is it knowing every blade of grass? Home comforts such as the dressing-room? The noise of the supporters? Is it all in the head? Lots of little things? None of the above?

Spurs won't have the majority of the crowd, they are using the away dressing-room and it's not as if Wembley is alien soil for United's squad packed full of internationals and seasoned winners.

Maybe Tottenham deserve to be narrow favourites and on expected goals they are rated superior to United despite the Red Devils' six-point Premier League advantage. But the mental aspect could count for plenty in this pressure-cooker atmosphere and the outsiders' safer approach means less can go wrong.

Christian Eriksen's goal 11 seconds into the Wembley Premier League meeting gave Spurs the perfect fillip, yet if they don't start as well will doubts creep in?

They did not deserve to lose 4-2 in last season's FA Cup semi-final to Chelsea but rash decisions cost Mauricio Pochettino's men, who also dominated Juventus and still lost 2-1 in this season's Champions League.

Jose Mourinho is sure to have a plan to play on Tottenham nerves, probably looking to stifle Harry Kane, Eriksen and Dele Alli and wait patiently for any kind of over-eagerness from Spurs.

United showed in their second-half comeback at Manchester City that they can be extremely dangerous if Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez are given space, while Romelu Lukaku has had a solid first season for the Red Devils.

However, it is on the bench where this may be settled, and Tottenham's reserves showed at Brighton in Tuesday's 1-1 draw that there is a lack of killer instinct outside the obvious talent in their ranks. Pochettino's men needed replays to see off Newport and Rochdale and their reliance on a few key individuals is clear for all to see.

United are slightly different. Their 1-0 win over Spurs at Old Trafford came courtesy of substitute Anthony Martial and if the game opens up then he and Marcus Rashford can turn the tie, as can Juan Mata or Marouane Fellaini in what seems certain to be a close encounter.

Man Utd to qualify

The Football Site

Like on Facebook

Google +1


Currently no Pro Punters for today

Match in Focus

19:45 Sa 26May

Real Madrid v Liverpool

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Real have won just one of their last four Champions League meetings against English opposition
Expert verdict
Real Madrid have lifted the Champions League in three of the past four seasons but they could struggle to retain their crown against a lively Liverpool. Real have been the dominant force in Europe, with last year’s 4-1 thumping of Juventus in the final in Cardiff showcasing their superiority. However, Zinedine Zidane’s men have not bumped into a front three like the Reds’ often - Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have netted 29 of their 40 Champions League goals this season - and they are vulnerable to the counter-attack.