Hull v Chelsea: Back Batman to bag in Humberside cup contest
Mark O'Haire expects Premier League outfit Chelsea to have enough quality to negotiate a potentially tricky FA Cup Fourth Round trip to Hull on Saturday evening.
Hull v Chelsea Saturday January 25, 17:30 Live on BT Sport
Sell-out crowd to support Hull
Hull striker Tom Eaves scored a last-minute winner to complete a hat-trick and put the Tigers into the 4th Round of the FA Cup back at the beginning of January. It was kind on the Humbersiders, who were well-matched by League One outfit Rotherham during their 3-2 triumph with the hosts also reduced to 10 men following a first-half red card.
City boss Grant McCann, who made eight changes from the Hull's previous match, turned the contest in his team's favour by sending on top-scorer Jarrod Bowen, Kamil Grosicki and Jackson Irvine after an hour mark. However, the Tigers supremo is expected to field a stronger starting XI here in front of a sell-out crowd at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday.
New signings Mallik Wilks and Martin Samuelsen will be hoping to make full debuts after featuring briefly in a dour 1-0 defeat at Derby last Saturday. Elsewhere, on-loan Liverpool gem Herbie Kane is eligible for selection but reliable centre-half Jordy de Wijs is a confirmed absentee - the Tigers are winless (W0-D3-L5) in their last eight without the Dutch defender..
Chelsea frustrated by midweek draw
Chelsea made nine changes to their team for their 2-0 FA Cup 3rd Round victory at home to Nottingham Forest three weeks ago. Despite resting and rotating, Frank Lampard fielded an XI packed with Premier League experience and the Blues cruised to victory in the capital, conceding only two shots in the Stamford Bridge success with Callum Hudson-Odoi starring.
Ross Barkley was also on-target and will expect to feature from the off, along with Michy Batshuayi in attack following Tammy Abraham's injury during Chelsea's frustrating 2-2 midweek draw with Arsenal. Mason Mount should also be involved after beginning Tuesday night's encounter on the bench with the likes of Marcos Alonso, Pedro and Kurt Zouma.
Lampard suggested the Arsenal draw felt more like a defeat after playing against 10 men for more than an hour, dominating proceedings by forcing 17 corners and peppering the Gunners goal with 19 shots, only to concede from Arsenal's only two attempts at goal.
Post-match, the Blues boss said, "When gameday comes you have to have the killer instinct. We've not got that at the moment." Such aspersions are backed up by the data with only Manchester City missing more big chances in the Premier League this season than Chelsea.
Blues strong favourites to progress
Across all competitions, Chelsea head into Saturday evening's match-up unbeaten in 15 against Hull (W13-D2-L0) since 1988. The Blues have also avoided defeat in each of their 10 FA Cup ties against the Tigers (W7-D3-L0), a run of results that includes a 4-0 thrashing of the Humbersiders at the 5th Round stage of the competition as recently as 2018.
When playing outside the top-flight, Hull6.60 have been eliminated in their last 13 FA Cup ties against top-flight opponents since 1973. Meanwhile, the Tigers have toiled against the Championship's leading lights here this season - losing six of nine matches against the top-14 at the KCOM - as well as managing just three shots on-target in their last two tussles.
Chelsea1.49 have progressed from 49 of their last 51 FA Cup ties against non-Premier League sides, and haven't lost away since March 2008. The Blues boast the top-tier's third best road record under Frank Lampard (W7-D1-L4), scoring at least twice in seven of those 12 games as guests. Only Man City are averaging more shots on their travels this term.
Goals too short to support
Erratic is possibly the best description for Hull's season so far. The Tigers boast an excellent 60% Expected Goals (xG) from open play ratio, have shown regular glimpses of a top-class quality, but have often been undone by sloppy defensive errors, a lack of final-third finishing and a consistently large injury list that's hampered prospects of a play-off push.
The Humbersiders have notched more than a solitary goal in only three of 14 fixtures against top-half teams under Grant McCann's watch and will hope to have Kamil Grosicki fit and available to support Jarrod Bowen in attacking areas this weekend. Should both feature, the hosts have an opportunity to hurt Chelsea.
The Blues have managed just three clean sheets across their past 15 league and cup contests, shipping at least twice in exactly half of their away days in the top-flight under Frank Lampard. Those 12 road trips have averaged a huge 3.75 goals per-game - nine of which have delivered Over 2.5 Goals and a repeat is understandably skinny at 1.63 here.
Back Batman to deliver
With Tammy Abraham almost certainly out and Olivier Giroud angling for a move away from Chelsea, it may pay to take the bulbous 4.50 available on back-up striker Michy Batshuayi to score first at the KCOM Stadium with an each-way stake. The each-way offering allows us to earn a third of the odds should the Belgian get on the scoresheet after the opening goal.
Batshuayi has struck 14 times in FA Cup and League Cup outings in England in stints with Chelsea and Crystal Palace, averaging out at a goal every 101 minutes. Eager to impress ahead of Euro 2020, the 27-year-old should be presented with plenty of opportunities leading the line for Lampard's attack-minded outfit here.