FOOTBALL expert Ben Levene (@BenLevene96) shares his best bets as Man Utd and Tottenham take to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday evening.
Man Utd v Tottenham| Saturday 21st April 2018, 17:15 | BBC
Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final offers us an intriguing encounter as Man Utd face Tottenham.
Historically United have had somewhat of a hold over Spurs, but each of the last seven meetings between this duo have been won by the home side, so it’s fair to say that is no longer the case.
Given Tottenham have played this season at Wembley, this is a tricky one to unpick. Spurs beat United 2-0 on Wembley turf in January, and have also turned over the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Dortmund at Saturday’s venue.
However, the 2-0 scoreline on that occasion maybe didn’t reflect the actual game. Spurs took the lead within the first minute, and that lead was doubled inside half-an-hour via a Phil Jones own goal. Almost immediately after Spurs took the lead, they were carved open a couple of times but Romelu Lukaku couldn’t quite get the ball out of his feet.
Moreover, after going behind the onus was on United, so they were probably more proactive for 89 minutes of that game than would have been planned. Similarly, being able to trouble teams on the counter played into Spurs’ hands.
Harry Kane looks to have been rushed back from injury and thus hasn’t looked sharp. Tottenham’s play is not as fluid without him firing.
Going into the January meeting between the pair, Spurs were priced at around the 7/5 mark. They are marginally shorter here yet are without full home advantage and a firing Harry Kane.
If this game takes the cagey pattern that is often the case in big games, it could be pretty even. The Draw is a definite runner here, and the 28% chance implied by the 63/25 price seems low. We know how Jose Mourinho approaches these games, and that is an edge in itself.
Referee Anthony Taylor has shown 119 bookings (and five reds) across 34 games in all competitions this season. That’s an average of 3.5 per game. If we look at games where the stakes are high, he’s shown at least four cards in four of the five European games he’s officiated this season, and has shown at least that mark in three of the four clashes between the top-six he’s taken charge of.
Taylor was in charge of last season’s FA Cup final showing six bookings and a red, while he handed out four cards in a semi-final the year prior.
It’s fair to say we can expect a card or two here, and that makes Ander Herrera worth considering.
The Spaniard is often used by Mourinho to provide an extra body in midfield. In two games against Chelsea last season, he was tasked with man-marking Eden Hazard, and picked up a booking and red card respectively.
He’s received five bookings in the Premier League this season, four of which came in all top-six clashes. In fact, he’s been booked in each of the last three games of this ilk that he’s started.
Herrera averages more attempted tackles and fouls than any other United players (barring Alexis Sanchez whom we have a smaller sample to go by). With Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min and Christian Eriksen roaming around, and Moussa Dembele a handful, his cynical side may come out if Mourinho’s outfit sit deep.
Man Utd v Tottenham – Draw (63/25 Marathon)
Man Utd v Tottenham – Ander Herrera to be carded (7/5 Bet Victor)