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FA Cup Final Betting: Trends analysis by Andrew Atherley

Televised Match Previews RSS / / 28 May 2009 /

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Our stats man has gone through the numbers and it doesn't look good for outsiders Everton...

Everton will attempt to crown their best-ever campaign against the Big Four by upsetting Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday. For the third time in the past five seasons, the Toffees finished 'best of the rest' in the Premier League table, and the most impressive sign of further progress under David Moyes has been their improved record against the Big Four.

Everton have knocked out Manchester United and Liverpool on the road to Wembley, and overall (on 90-minute results) they have lost only two out of 11 against the Big Four in league and cup this season. Eight of those 11 matches have finished level after 90 minutes, with 10 of the 11 having under 2.5 goals, and keeping things tight is sure to be Everton's game plan at Wembley.

A tight, low-scoring game would fit the pattern of FA Cup finals in the Premier League era, with 12 of the 16 finals in that period having under 2.5 goals and the majority (nine out of 16) under 1.5 goals. Under 2.5 goals is [1.65] to back and under 1.5 goals is [3.05] to back, and even those odds don't look short enough based on the trends.

Look, too, at the history of Chelsea v Everton matches since Moyes was appointed at Goodison Park in March 2002. Twelve out of 20 have had under 2.5 goals, but the ratio of low-scoring games has risen as Everton have moved closer to the elite. The first four meetings all had over 2.5 goals, but since then 12 out of 16 have had under 2.5 goals and half of those 16 games have had under 1.5 goals.

The only way Everton can win on Saturday, it seems, is to play a containing game. Under Moyes they have played 69 games against the Big Four and won only six , with just one victory coming when the opposition scored (based on 90-minute results). In games where the Big Four scored, Everton have lost 43 out of 55 (78%) in 90 minutes; Everton's record in the 14 games where they kept a clean sheet is won five, drawn nine.

Against Chelsea, Everton's record under Moyes is drawn seven and lost 13 from 20 games, decreasing to four draws and 13 defeats when Chelsea have scored, which emphasises again how important a clean sheet is to Everton's chance.

Chelsea have played 21 games under Guus Hiddink and have scored in 18, but one of the blanks was a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge on April 22 that is likely to be the template for Everton's approach at Wembley.

Hiddink's Chelsea, though, have scored against the likes of Barcelona, Liverpool (twice), Arsenal (twice) and Juventus (twice) and their overall record is won 15, drawn five and lost one (1-0 at Tottenham 14 games ago). When scoring, they have won 15 out of 18 and drawn three (all the draws were in the Champions League).

Two more FA Cup final trends (league position and away form) are in Chelsea's favour. Since the last old-fashioned giant-killing (second division West Ham beating Arsenal from the first division in 1980) the higher-placed team in the league structure has lifted the trophy 20 times out of 28 (71%), though in 90 minutes the draw rate has been high (the higher-placed team's record is won 13, drawn 12, lost three).

In the Premier League era, the higher-placed team has done even better, lifting the trophy in 12 out of 16 finals (75%) and with a 90-minute record of won 10, drawn four, lost two. Even more tellingly, top-four finishers against teams below that group have won seven out of seven in the Premier League era, with a 90-minute record of won six and drawn one.

Chelsea were the best away team in the Premier League this season (winning 14 out of 19 and losing just three) and that factor is important too: 11 out of 14 finals between two Premier League teams have gone to the better away team (with a 90-minute record of eight wins, four draws and two defeats).

Most of the stats, then, point to a Chelsea triumph, and if they are to do it in 90 minutes the trend is towards a victory to nil (of the 16 finals decided in regulation time since 1980, 14 have been won to nil). In the Premier League era the most common scorelines have been 1-0 (five out of 16) and 2-0 (four), and those are the correct scores worth considering by Chelsea backers.

Five of Chelsea's 15 wins under Hiddink have been 1-0, which is available at [6.8], and three have been 2-0, which is [7.8]. In other words, more than half of their wins under Hiddink have been settled by one of those two scorelines.

The realistic alternatives to a Chelsea win are a draw, available at [3.75], and a 0-0 correct score, which is [10.0] to back. There have been only two 90-minute goalless draws in the Premier League era, however, and both involved two teams that had finished in the top three in the table.

Despite the strong tendency towards low scores, the majority of finals in the Premier League (nine out of 16) have had a first-half goal, though only Liverpool v West Ham in 2006 (which was 2-1 to West Ham at half-time) had more than one goal in the first half. Seven of the 16 finals have been 0-0 at half-time, but a higher proportion have been 1-0 (eight).

The half-time 0-0 is favoured at [2.44], but a Chelsea 1-0 lead at [3.45] and even an Everton 1-0 at [7.0] are worth considering. When Everton upset Manchester United to lift the FA Cup in 1995, the only goal of the game was scored in the 30th minute.

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