Millwall v Everton: Capable Lions pose plenty of threat

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THE always-excellent James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) takes a look at Saturday evening's FA Cup 4th Round showdown between Millwall and Everton at The Den.

Millwall v Everton | Saturday 26th January 2018, 17:30 | BBC

This weekend presents a clash between two clubs which have made the FA Cup final in our lifetime. Millwall reached the showpiece event in 2004, before finding Manchester United too hot to handle in Cardiff, whilst Everton were edged out by Chelsea in the 2009 edition.

The duo enter Saturday’s contest in contrasting form, and it is the Championship club who’ll be relishing this meeting more than their Premier League opponents.

Marco Silva is finding life tough at Goodison Park in recent times, or more so away from Goodison Park to be exact. All season long a poor record away from home is the reason why they find themselves in the bottom half of the table. Just two solitary victories in 11 attempts (Leicester and Burnley) on the road means they travel to The Den not exactly relishing the trip. On the flip side, the FA Cup could be a nice distraction.

Millwall might be winless in two, including a home setback to Blackburn, but they had won four games in a row in both league and cup prior to that. One defeat in six means they’ve earned the right to enjoy this televised encounter with the Toffees.

Whilst avoiding relegation into League One in the priority, there is no reason for the Lions to take this game lightly. The same can be said of Everton, we’re now at the stage of the competition where it becomes a little more serious and that will be reflected in the team selection. Having said that, Silva fielded very closely to his best XI in the 3rd Round when edging past League Two league leaders Lincoln at home a few weeks ago.

Everton are unsurprisingly the favourites for this game, and if they do play to their best, then they are the more likely winners. They do possess some talented individuals, certainly going forward. However, we’ve touched upon their struggles away from Merseyside, so we’re not going to be rushing in to back them at odds-on.

Lions to pose a threat

Neil Harris’ side has made their home base something of a fortress for some time now. Their passionate crowd will notch up the volume to the max for this game as they look to spur on their side to a cup shock. They need these little percentages to give themselves a chance and make this an uncomfortable trip to south-east London for the Premier League boys.

Since September, only Birmingham and, as mentioned, Blackburn, has emerged from Millwall with maximum points. Whilst they’ve been in the bottom half for practically the entire campaign, they’ve still managed to defeat the likes of Derby, Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and, in the last round of the cup, Hull, in front of their own supporters.

As we’ve said, Everton do have issues on the road. However, it has to be remembered that they have faced Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City already. All were defeats, except a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge in November. Still, they clearly aren’t the same side and they’ve proved particular vulnerable defensively.

That game in Chelsea remains the only time they’ve kept an away clean sheet this season. Only in those losses to Birmingham and Blackburn are the only times Millwall have failed to score at home in the current campaign. On Boxing Day 2017, Everton drew 0-0 away to West Brom, since then, the draw to Chelsea is their only away clean sheet. They can’t stop shipping goals.

Twenty-two of Millwall’s 29 Championship league points so far have come in home fixtures. Home form is a big reason why I do think they’ll have enough to avoid the drop into the third-tier. I also believe it is why they’ll give Everton a scare on Saturday night.

I can’t be confident enough to back them to win here, or even emerge with a replay. I do like Both Teams To Score at 10/11 (Betfred) however.

Job done after 45

Only the Big Six (Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United) have enjoyed more possession across the season in the Premier League compared to Everton. This is the style of play which Silva has looked to implement; building from the back and getting their talented players on the ball in space. They’ll look to achieve that here on a big pitch at Millwall.

Harris’ team will need to work hard, but that is the minimum that Harris expects from his squad game-by-game. Therefore, from a tactical perspective, we can see the first half being played out with Everton seeing most of the ball. Millwall might have to take their medicine and sit back for a period, trying to frustrate their Premier League opponents.

Millwall have quality of their own going forward to make an impact, but being secure at the back first and foremost is their number one priority. The Lions have conceded the first goal in 64% of their league games this season, and that is against lower-quality opposition than the one they’ll be up against this weekend.

However, they’ll be up for this one and with Everton’s troubles of late, you can just see Millwall ‘doing a job’ for the first half at least.

Also, 70% of Everton’s games in the top-flight this season has been a draw at half time. Their games have witnessed 23 goals in the first-half, and compared to 42 in the second period, it shows that things tend to open up after the mid-game interval. Everton won’t want a replay, and to be honest, neither will Millwall so you can see it opening up in the second 45.

We like the Half Time Draw at 5/4 (Bet365).

Contest to open up in the second-half

Therefore, we fancy there to be more goals after half-time. The numbers in games involving Everton are significant, and for Millwall, they aren’t too different either.

For Millwall, it is 28 goals in 0-45, and for 45-90, it reads 50.

11/10 (Betfair) for the Second Half to be the Highest Scoring Half looks worth a play.

Best Bets

Millwall v Everton – Both Teams To Score (10/11 Betfred)

Millwall v Everton – Half Time Draw (5/4 Bet365)

Millwall v Everton – Second Half to be the Highest Scoring Half (11/10 Betfair)

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