Our Game of the Day series continues as Paul Higham takes a deeper look at Hull v Everton in the FA Cup third round.
"Hull have some serious injury problems and with Benitez badly needing a result Everton should win this one rather comfortably." Everton win & over 2.5 goals @ 3.185/40
Hull City v Everton
Saturday 8 January, 17:30 kick-off
Live on BBC 1
Our Game of the Day feature continues and Saturday's pick of the FA Cup third round ties comes from MKM Stadium as Hull City host an Everton side just desperate for some kind of result.
Just one win in 12 has Rafa Benitez sat on the hottest of hot seats - level pegging with Claudio Ranieri in the Premier League sack race - that was already rather warm when he sat down at Goodison Park having had so much success across Stanley Park with Liverpool.
For Hull, they've got their minds fixed on a Turkish takeover to help guide them away from the Championship drop zone, and an extended injury list that means a cup run isn't at the top of their list right now.
Let's dive in to this intriguing third round tie, and watch out below for how you can vote for your preferred special Odds Boost for this fixture.
Tigers hoping for Turkish takeover delight
January could be a big month for Hull City, with Turkish businessman Acun Ilicali's impending takeover ending the 11-year reign of the Allam family which has seen their relationship with the fans take a huge nosedive over recent times.
It's been a seven-month slog for Ilicali in his bid for the Championship club, but there'll be a renewed sense of optimism at the MKM Stadium once the deal is finally ratified as the new owner is already lining up January signings.
: "We've just got to go and try and take the game to them. We want to see if we can get ourselves into the fourth round. We know it's going to be a really tough game but we're looking forward to it." pic.twitter.com/LY5GHXzKdp-- Hull City (@HullCity) January 6, 2022
And Tigers boss Grant McCann could use a few new faces in a squad that's hovering dangerously just four points outside the relegation zone - so even an occasion such as an FA Cup third round tie against a side like Everton may not be their top priority.
Hull are a prime example of what a slippery slope it is for sides trying to get up and stay up in the Premier League - they have after all spent three of the last eight seasons in the top flight, and only eight years ago made the FA Cup final to go along with a 16th placed finish in the Premier League.
Those days seem a long way off now though, as McCann deals with severe injury problems ahead of an FA Cup game that's playing second fiddle to Championship survival - with forwards Mallik Wilks and Josh Magennis ruled out along with Josh Emmanuel, Lewie Coyle and Alfie Jones - although he does have the experienced Tom Huddlestone back from Covid.
Under-fire Rafa really needs a run
There aren't too many managers more in need of a result right now than Rafa Benitez.
You have to have some sympathy for Benitez as there's no doubt the recruitment at the club has been rotten for years, but then he knew coming in as a former Liverpool boss from across Stanley Park, who once famously labelled Everton as a small club, would only have limited breathing space before fans turned.
The fans at Goodison Park know the squad isn't good enough, and they know Benitez has had big injury problems to deal with, but they'd still want more than sitting in 15th, just eight points off relegation and with just one win in 12.
And although this competition could bring some relief, it's also a sad reminder of Everton's massive underachievement given their 1995 FA Cup win remains the last piece of silverware to go into the trophy cabinet. Even opponents Hull have been in the FA Cup final more recently than Everton's last appearance in 2009.
Benitez having won the FA Cup with Liverpool won't really help either.
There has been some good news of late with Dominic Calvert-Lewis returning against Brighton at the weekend, but he may not be risked with Salomon Rondon able to start up front. New signings Nathan Patterson and Vitali Mykolenko could also possibly make their debuts.
Even Benitez being able to sign new players after a shake-up in the boardroom could be a good sign for the future, but the Spanish boss won't be there to see it unless he starts getting results quickly.
Stats and form
Hull haven't won in four but they did win four in a row before that so will hope for better, and Everton have only won two away games all season - and those at Brighton and Huddersfield came back in August.
It hasn't been much better for the Toffees in this tournament as Everton have lost their last three FA Cup away ties in a row, although two of those came at Anfield.
And although these two haven't been drawn together in the FA Cup since the 1960s, in all competitions Everton have won four of the last seven.
The Tigers haven't been successful against the big clubs in this competition either, losing their last 18 FA Cup ties against top flight sides, and yet they have been good at getting beyond the third round of late - winning seven of their last nine at this stage.
Everton should have plenty in hand here, but the pressure is on in this tie, against an injury-hit Championship strugglers with no real interest in this competition - only an emphatic victory as odds-on favourites will suffice.
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Hull have at least been scoring at home recently, bagging in seven of the last eight even though they won just three of those. That's because they conceded 10 goals in those eight with just two clean sheets - even a team that's not used to winning as much as Everton should find their way to goal here.
Not that the Toffees are great away-day scorers, as they've scored in five of their last eight away games but only once managed two goals. Hull can be an antidote to that though and you fancy the Premier League outfit could stick a few away here.
An Everton win and over 2.5 goals comes in at 21/10 but you could instead take the 100/30 on the visitors scoring three or more goals.
On the cards front, a match-up to watch is 21-year-old Hull centre half Jacob Greaves possibly going up against Everton's powerful Rondon. Greaves has picked up five bookings, four of them in the last eight games, and with a huge physical battle on his hands he's well fancied to see yellow at 11/4.
If you're after a big-priced double then Richard Smallwood is a 3/1 chance to get booked, as he has done six times this season including three in the last five. He's in the midfield engine room and referee Kevin Friend has dished out 20 in his last three games.
As always, you'll have to keep an eye on the team sheets and the Covid cases, but key men for Everton should be wide men Demarai Gray and Anthony Gordon, who both have too much talent for this Hull side to contain.
Gordon will be flying after scoring his first two Everton goals against Brighton last time out, while Gray has been not only Everton's top scorer but also their one consistent performer this season.
Those two pairings make up our two selections for this game, which YOU have to chance to get boosted by voting for your favourite via the Betfair social media channels.
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