Weblog: The football punter

Millwall v Everton preview

TV: BBC1, 5.30pm Saturday
FA Cup fourth round

Marco Silva is coming under pressure in the Everton hotseat and his problems could mount as Sky Bet Championship hosts Millwall have the potential to register famous FA Cup fourth-round shock.

The odds would appear to be stacked against Millwall, who have nowhere near the resources of their illustrious opponents.

Lions boss Neil Harris has to choose from a small squad because three of his players (Tom Elliott, Tom Bradshaw and Conor McLaughlin) are injured and four (Ben Marshall, Ben Thompson, Fred Onyedinma, Sid Nelson and Tom King) are ineligible having featured for other clubs in earlier rounds.

However, Harris is not hiding behind those selection constraints and backs his players to rise to the occasion.

He said: "We're at the Den in front of a full house, that immediately closes the gap between the teams. The atmosphere in the stadium will be electric."

Keeping the crowd involved is key for Millwall. The Den can be an intimidating venue and demands bravery – in a physical and mental sense – from visiting players.

Millwall used the conditions to their advantage during their 2016-17 FA Cup run, registering home wins over Premier League trio Bournemouth (3-0), Watford (1-0) and Leicester (1-0), and are sure to ask questions of Everton by playing an uncomplicated, high-tempo style of football.

At their best Everton would be too strong but the Toffees have been well below par in recent weeks and slipped into the bottom half of the Premier League following last Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Southampton.

They looked low on confidence at the St Mary's, which is understandable because it was their fifth defeat in seven league games.

Offensively they look less effective than earlier in this season and there has been a noticeable decline in the effectiveness of Richarlison, who has netted just once in his last eight games.

The Brazilian's performances also tailed off at Watford last season – he failed to score in his last 28 appearances for the Hornets – and it may be the right time to give him a break.

Everton's problem is they have few quality alternatives through the middle.

Cenk Tosun has a been a massive disappointment and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (eight league starts in 23 matches this season) appears to lack the confidence of his manager.

With Everton struggling to find the right attacking balance, they are unlikely to blow Millwall away.

And if the match stays tight, Everton's ongoing weakness at defending set-pieces may come back to haunt them.

Everton's tally of ten set-piece Premier League goals conceded this season is the joint-highest alongside Cardiff, Newcastle and Wolves.

It is a fragility Millwall will be fully aware of and will be seriously examined by the aerial prowess of strikers Lee Gregory and Steve Morison and centre-backs Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper.

The football on show might not be pretty but Millwall are only concerned about getting the right result and look overpriced to come out on top.


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Match in Focus


Man City v Tottenham

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Expert verdict
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