Weblog: The football punter
Chelsea can make smooth FA Cup progress
FA Cup third round
BT Sport 2, 5.30pm Saturday
The Chelsea second string who have produced three wins from three in the League Cup will be sent into battle against Norwich at Carrow Road where they are unlikely to disappoint Antonio Conte.
The likes of Davide Zappacosta, Kenedy and Michy Batshuayi can expect to be summoned by Conte, just as they were in League Cup ties against Nottingham Forest, Everton and Bournemouth.
All three matches ended in victories for the champions, hence their semi-final showdown with Arsenal next Wednesday. And hence why Conte will be dipping into his reserves and giving the likes of Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kante and Marcos Alonso a game off.
Norwich, of course, will be thrilled that Hazard, for example, is out of the picture but there’s still more than enough quality in the Chelsea ranks to expect the Premier League highflyers to get up at mid-ranking Sky Bet Championship opponents.
They’ve won eight of their last ten FA Cup ties, their only defeats coming against top-flight opponents.
Norwich, on the other hand, have been bundled out of the competition in round three in each of the past four seasons. Their fans have to go back to January 5, 2013, for the last time they were able to celebrate an FA Cup victory.
Bookamkers expect Chelsea to prevail but a better way of siding with them is to back them to win a game featuring at least three goals at 11-10.
All three of their League Cup successes this season have produced three goals or more and confidence is sky high in the camp with just one defeat in their last 15 games.
It’s a big match for Daniel Farke and his Canaries, who come into the game in fair form. What had threatened to be a terrible end to the year was improved by them taking seven points from nine against Birmingham, Burton and Millwall, though those are three teams even lower in the table than Norwich, who are 13th.
A decent run of form is not to be sniffed at whoever the opponents and Farke can also take the positives from a League Cup showdown with Arsenal at the Emirates in October, which went to extra-time.
That honourable defeat led to a run of seven matches without a win with a lack of goals as much of a problem now as it was then. They boast playmakers galore in the likes of Wes Hoolahan, Alex Pritchard and James Maddison, but 26 goals from 26 games is the fourth-lowest return in the second tier. And if Chelsea stop their ball players there isn’t much else.
Neither side would want a replay – Chelsea have been playing two games a week for the past eight weeks – so both will give it a go and the visitors’ class should make the difference.
Chelsea & over 2.5 goals