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Weblog: The football punter

Merseyside derby could be tight FA Cup tie

FA Cup third round
BBC1, 7.55pm Friday


Sam Allardyce has promised a more attack-minded Everton for their FA Cup third-round trip to Anfield but it may pay to bet on Big Sam parking the bus at Liverpool.

"It's win or bust," reasoned Allardyce, who saw his Toffees team somehow nick a 1-1 draw in the league fixture at Liverpool last month despite barely offering anything in attack. "There's less pressure. It's a glory game and you can go out and seek the glory."

That's all well and good but Everton have struggled to offer anything in attack for several matches and backing under 2.5 goals at odds-against appeals most in a Merseyside derby that may well lack entertainment.

Allardyce reckons there was an outside chance Turkish international forward Cenk Tosun could be registered in time to feature, although it would be asking a lot of the potential new arrival to immediately solve Everton's goalscoring woes.

Everton have notched only eight away goals, easily the lowest tally of any side in the top half and their 2-0 defeat to Manchester United on Monday was their second straight home game without forcing a shot on target following the 0-0 stalemate with Chelsea.

Allardyce's side had one effort on goal in the recent 2-1 loss at Bournemouth, while Michael Keane's injury means a likely centre-back pairing of Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams will have to defend deep to guard against a lack of pace.

Gylfi Sigurdsson's set-pieces could offer a sporadic path to goal but Everton's functional side can at least frustrate Liverpool, particularly as Jurgen Klopp cannot field his strongest 11.

Top goalscorer Mohamed Salah is injured and chief creator Philippe Coutinho is also sidelined, coinciding with reports of renewed interest from Barcelona, while Sadio Mane joined Salah in Ghana for an African Player of the Year awards ceremony on Thursday.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has said he will select his best available outfield side so Mane may still be in from the start but whether he is firing on all cylinders remains to be seen.

What is often forgotten in all the talk of Liverpool's frightening front four is that their defence can lay claim to the best home record in the Premier League with only four goals conceded.

Of those goals, one was Wayne Rooney's controversial penalty in the league draw and another was Willian's fluke for Chelsea.

Leicester were reduced to one shot on target in Liverpool's last home game, which Jamie Vardy scored from, but the Reds are a much more solid unit than is generally believed.

Virgil van Dijk's arrival should help enhance Liverpool in that regard and they can once again limit Everton to few chances.

Recommendation
Under 2.5 goals

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Match in Focus

17:55 Th 13Dec BT2

MOL Vidi v Chelsea

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • helsea have won their two Europa away games by one goal
Expert verdict
Group L winners Chelsea will have no desire to send a strong team to Hungary to face MOL Vidi and that may enable the hosts to upset the odds. Vidi put in a respectable display in losing 1-0 at Stamford Bridge and have since won two of their Europa League matches to give themselves a chance.