Admittedly, it’s a tad unorthodox to post an FA Cup preview a week in advance on the same morning 2 of the warring teams – Man City and Liverpool – are preparing to play a crucial league match.
But we’ve got a hunch that the best gambling lines on each FA Cup semi-final bout are already available at online sportsbooks, with the week’s interstitial Premier League and Champions League action serving (mostly) to mislead bookmakers, and the betting public, about angles corollary to the game’s most elemental and unavoidable factors…not so much tied to the anticipated emotions of players presently mounting up in Manchester and Madrid.
Watch for the FA Cup’s odds to change with results in this week’s marquee action. But the “action” of another sort won’t affect what the tournament weekend’s outcomes are likely to be.
Manchester City vs Liverpool F.C. (Saturday, April 16)
There is no doubt that Chelsea’s upcoming UEFA Champions League leg against Real Madrid will affect predictions, betting action, and potentially even the outcome of Pensioners’ subsequent FA Cup semi-final with Crystal Palace. Liverpool and Manchester City’s aggregate leads in the Champions League quarter-final round, however, are likely to cause late-coming FA Cup semi-final betting to shift with this weekend’s EPL match, notwithstanding any major upset that results from either UEFA leg.
City of Manchester Stadium is hosting 2 of the most important matches of the English football cycle in the span of a week. Liverpool’s visit to battle Man City this weekend will help to determine a Premier League champion, even as each club’s managers insist that comprehensive form over the final 8 matches, not Sunday’s result, will hold sway. Reds stand merely 1 point behind Man City on the EPL table, with equal games ledgered.
Man City-Liverpool odds at FanDuel Sportsbook have taken a strange turn. Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is not known for championing the FA Cup over other competitions. Reds have not reached a Football Association Cup final since losing to Chelsea at Wembley Stadium 10 years ago, making this season’s potential title bid somewhat of a novelty for Anfield’s players and coaches. Man City, meanwhile, won the FA Cup in 2019 and appeared headed for another FA Cup Final appearance last cycle before running into an all-points nemesis in Pensioners.
If there was a competition in which City would draw shorter sportsbook odds to defeat Liverpool, one imagines it would be the tournament semi-final, not the league match on Sunday. But that’s not how the betting action is going.
Reds opened as nearly a 3-to-1 underdog to take 3 points from Sky Blues this weekend. However, the (+190) money-line on Liverpool to win the following Saturday’s elimination match is paired with cautious (+120) odds on Man City prevailing in 90 or 120 minutes.
FanDuel’s (+240) odds in the FA Cup fixture’s “Draw” market indicate that some speculators believe Klopp could coach conservatively and try to produce a tie-breaker elimination scenario. That seems unlikely with a domestic treble still in the offing for Liverpool no matter what happens in the Premier League battle this weekend, and considering that Reds own the match’s superior striker in Mohamed Salah.
When the clubs tied 2-2 at Anfield last autumn, Man City was still developing a midfield game that accounts for hype about City’s “exceptional form” above all other English soccer teams. Sky Blues’ 4-1 win over Man United on March 6th was a striking example, as Manchester City’s all-star cast of midfielders turned MUFC into a kick-around. Kevin de Bruyne’s 2 goals electrified visiting supporters and the scoresheet, but it was the club’s collective counter-attack that shined above all else. United goalkeeper David de Gea’s attempts to slow Man City down with long, laconic free kicks might have been pinball-flipper shots, as quickly as Sky Blues roared back with organized numbers and lovely 1-touch passing that would make fast-break NBA teams swoon with envy.
Liverpool is better organized, better prepared, and a touch quicker-paced than Man United this season, making it unlikely that Man City will “pinball” to another easy win in the FA Cup semi-finals. But a “no” prop bet on “Both Teams to Score” at (+140) could prove the wisest wager on the board no matter who wins and loses the EPL bout on Sunday.
If Man City wins Sunday’s duel, Liverpool can safely go all-out to lift the alternative hardware, as the reality of the result’s definitive table effect will swiftly sink-in on Klopp and other protesting voices by then. Reds may have to adopt a cautious strategy after all, only to keep a re-energized Sky Blues lineup off the scoreboard with a first-choice back line. Conversely, a Liverpool win on Sunday could prompt City’s amazing midfield to close the door on Salah and other attackers.
Man City’s scoring swoon – and the need for 90:00 clean-sheet defending – will officially hit home if the next match goes sour.
WagerBop’s Pick: “No” (“Both Teams To Score” Prop Bet) (+140)
Chelsea F.C. vs Crystal Palace (Sunday, April 17)
Easter falls smack in the middle of spring’s blossom this year, just as Chelsea’s chance to defend UEFA Champions League hardware seems to have wilted. Chelsea’s awful opening leg against Real Madrid results in Blues heading to ominous Spanish grounds with a 2-goal aggregate disadvantage. GK Thibaut Courtois could eliminate Chelsea with an ordinary performance. But the early betting lines (and percentage of betting picks) on Chelsea’s elimination semi-final to follow reveal a lack of imagination and foresight.
Chelsea’s (-180) money-line to win outright is not unreasonable. But the 1-to-1 odds on Over and Under (2.5) goals at FanDuel Sportsbook show that most supporters expect Blues’ attacking game, not CPFC’s unique defending, to dictate the flow of Sunday’s bout.
Glance at the Premier League schedule and table, though, and it’s obvious Crystal Palace will be the fresher FA Cup team next weekend. Real Madrid’s (-1500) odds to advance to the Champions League semi-finals are wildly undervaluing the resolve and resources of a legacy Premiership club, and as the event’s defending champion, Chelsea will be compelled to play forward numbers and work to produce scoring chances for the entire back leg in Madrid. Punters may be considering a scenario in which Real Madrid scores on a 1st-half counterattack, and Thomas Tuchel hence adapts his game-plan on the fly to rest key footballers for a “consolation” domestic victory at Stamford Bridge. But expecting a manager from the EPL to sacrifice international form, merely to preserve the best opportunity to beat an underdog at home in the FA Cup, is a bridge too far.
CPFC is preparing to put everything on the line against a Chelsea squad that’s too tired, too banged-up, and which may be too discouraged, to carry a 1-to-2 betting line in Sunday’s semi-final. Live bettors will flock to Eagles if CPFC is drawn level in the 2nd half, but “Crystal Palace to Advance” could prove to be the superior match-day prop bet, if Christian Pulisic’s stout international schedule finally wears down on the Yankee just as other strikers tire.
Meanwhile, the Under (2.5) is a high-value pregame pick at (-120) or longer odds.
WagerBop’s Pick: Under (2.5)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.