Fa CupFootball

FA Cup Final betting: Park sentimentality and back rampant Chelsea to continue their winning ways

May 12, 2021January 7th, 2022

IT feels odd to pitch Leicester City as the underdogs ahead of this weekend’s 140th FA Cup final.

After all, the Foxes are presently just a point off Chelsea, their opponents at Wembley, and have been a constant fixture in the top four all season. The only time these teams have met this term Leicester won out comfortably, a victory orchestrated by Brendan Rodgers, who is one of the best and shrewdest coaches around. In Kelechi Iheanacho they possess the most in-form striker across the Premier League.

So of course, they have a lot going for them. Of course, this is not the Crazy Gang meeting the Culture Club, or Wigan pulling off an unexpected toppling of Manchester City.

Still, when the big picture is viewed it’s hard not to consider Chelsea as rightful, clear favourites and that’s before we even get to the remarkable transformation that has taken place at Stamford Bridge since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival. In addition to the Blues’ formidable form from January the narratives surrounding this game also have Leicester down as the outsider, chasing a memorable upset.

Chelsea are 19/20 to win their seventh FA Cup since 2000. This is as solid and sensible a bet as it gets.

 

Granted, narratives don’t tend to have a direct influence on the outcome of games, and generally speaking they are best left for commentators to use as a bit of colour during a lull in play. Even so, it feels pertinent that by most people’s reckoning the Foxes are the biggest club never to have won this famous competition and it’s perhaps relevant too that Brendan Rodgers’ C.V outside of Scotland is desperately short of silverware. In the 21st century both he and his team have been leading protagonists in English football yet in knockout tournaments each only have a smattering of last eights and the odd semi-final to their name.

A triumph for Leicester then might be somewhat belittled as a team lying fourth in the Premier League besting a team in third. In reality, it has all of the magical qualities this competition is known for.

 

If cup final sentimentally gets the better of you and you fancy backing the Foxes, combine the 14/5 with a generous 7/10 for under 2.5 goals

If Leicester’s track record in the cups is relatively poor, by comparison Chelsea are FA Cup royalty, having been involved in 50% of finals since 2007. Then there’s the not-so-small matter of a Champions League final on the horizon as the Blues continue to rise to storied heights in the German’s charge.

To best illustrate just how phenomenal Chelsea have been in recent months we must turn to stats because frankly, words don’t suffice. In Tuchel’s 25 games at the helm, his fortified team have conceded only 11 goals which means that going all the way back to the turn of the year Chelsea have been breached every three and a half hours. That is obscenely impressive.

From this defensive sureness comes other eye-widening facts, not least that they have only gone behind on three occasions and kept clean sheets in 72% of their games. That is not a misprint. Across three months and in all competitions, Chelsea have completely nullified the opposition 72% of the time.

 

 

At the other end Mason Mount has added a goal-scoring threat to his neat touches while Pulisic, Havertz and Ziyech are chipping in with increasing regularity and this affords Timo Werner to be brilliant in every facet of his game besides the one he was principally signed for.

Werner’s wastefulness brings us to arguably Chelsea’s only flaw, if indeed it can be termed that, because though they share around the goals admirably and by doing so make themselves even harder to negate, Tuchel’s men are hardly prolific game to game. On only one occasion have they scored more than twice inside 90 minutes and the concern going into this iconic fixture is that Chelsea will score early, shut up shop, and maybe grab a second for good measure. What hardly alleviates that worry is that 20% of Leicester’s concessions this campaign have come inside the opening 20 minutes, which is admittedly not a staggering amount, but does suggest they are prone to being caught cold. Or more likely in this instance, prohibited by early nerves.

 

From the correct score market, 15/2 for a Chelsea 2-0 victory jumps out

All of this bodes badly for a club making their first FA Cup final appearance since 1969 but at least Leicester’s recent stuttering form in the league can be played down, what with this being a one-off event. Who knows, maybe the uniqueness of the occasion might even be a welcome distraction from the pressurized grind of securing top four and the Foxes will fly?

 

 

Furthermore, there are several causes for optimism for the high-achieving, Champions League-chasing underdogs. Should they break the deadlock, Leicester are proven front-runners, going ahead 23 times in all comps this season and ultimately winning 21 of them. Then there’s the aforementioned form of Iheanacho that genuinely stuns. The Nigerian has bagged 13 in his last 10 appearances, equating to a goal every 67.8 minutes. No-one around Europe can better that.

 

With Iheanacho on fire it’s tempting to go for Leicester to win at least one half at 27/20

Countering Iheanacho’s scoring-spree however is a loss of prolificacy from Jamie Vardy who began this season with a bang but has only found the back of the net twice in 2021, but let’s keep things positive to end with because from a neutral’s perspective, the possibility of Leicester going toe-to-toe with a consistently superb Chelsea makes for a better final. For this to happen Jonny Evans needs to be fit and available after withdrawing from the warm-up v Newcastle last Friday. Rodgers said post-match that his veteran defender is the ‘brains’ of his back-line and there’s no arguing with that. James Maddison’s boots must also sparkle.

As for their chances of lifting the trophy it is key for Leicester to stay in the game, as obvious as that sounds. Over a third of their goal-haul in 2020/21 have been converted after the 75th minute, which is not only a testament to their mental fortitude and stamina but is an ingrained habit that will give them belief if the contest is tight and attritional.

To be clear, Chelsea are most fancied, and there are numerous well-priced options available to reflect this. But if the cup final does offer up some magic then 9/2 for Rodgers’ side to win by exactly one goal is a tremendous bet.