Chelsea v Crystal Palace: Few goals fancied in FA Cup semi-final

Chelsea return to action following their Champions League disappointment with a tricky FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace at Wembley on Sunday. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter.

Chelsea suffer extra-time heartache

Chelsea chief Thomas Tuchel said there are "no regrets" after holders Chelsea were knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid in a classic clash on Tuesday night. Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, the Blues forced extra-time against the record 13-time winners at the Bernabeu before agonisingly losing 5-4 on aggregate to relinquish their title.

Many had written off Chelsea's hopes, but when Timo Werner scored to make it 3-0 on the night in the 75th minute, the Blues were 15 minutes away from a sensational feat. However, Rodrygo's volley brought the scores back level five minutes later before Karim Benzema headed the decisive goal home following a costly slip from Antonio Rudiger.

Tuchel said, "These are the kind of defeats we can digest and swallow as we left nothing to regret out there. It was not meant to be. We showed the quality and character this team has and deserved to go through. They took advantage of the mistakes with individual quality and that was enough because over the two legs we did too many of these big mistakes."

Slow start costs Palace

Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira admitted his side's slow was to blame as the Eagles' seven-game unbeaten streak came to an end following a 2-1 loss away at Leicester last Sunday. Wilfried Zaha, Jean-Philippe Mateta and Joachim Andersen all had early opportunities to score and the Londoners were made to pay for their profligacy.

Leicester eventually took the lead in the 38th minute - the first goal Palace had conceded since early March - and the hosts swiftly doubled their advantage before the break. The Eagles pulled one back when Zaha saw two of his penalties saved by Schmeichel, but the Ivorian managed to head home the rebound at the second time of asking.

Speaking post-match, Vieira said: "The damage was done in the first half with the way we entered into the game. We gave ourselves too much to climb in the second half. In the first half we didn't play well as a team. We played too many balls backwards. We were not brave enough in our build-up. We gave them belief and the momentum was on their side.

Market expects a Blues cruise

Unsurprisingly, Chelsea have dominated recent head-to-head showdowns with Crystal Palace. The Blues have bagged top honours in each of the last nine meetings going back to 2017 - that includes sealing a 3-0 success at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the current campaign, as well as a 1-0 triumph in the reverse Selhurst Park in February.

Chelsea 1.64 had suffered a solitary 90-minute loss in 26 (W16-D9-L1) outings across all competitions before the international break so the successive Blues defeats that followed against Brentford and Real Madrid were a major shock the system. However, Thomas Tuchel's troops highlighted their potential in midweek with an excellent effort in Madrid.

Crystal Palace 6.20 have surpassed all expectations in Patrick Vieira's first season in charge. The Eagles are chasing a first top-10 Premier League finish since 1991 and are looking to book their place in the FA Cup final for only the third time in the club's history. The underdogs have largely produced competitive efforts when taking on elite opposition.

Few goals fancied in FA Cup semi-final

Recent FA Cup semi-finals have tended to be tight affairs - six of the last nine renewals have featured Under 2.5 Goals 1.92 and a repeat could be on the cards at Wembley on Sunday. Chelsea are bound to be mentally and physically fatigued after their midweek excursions in the Champions League, whilst Crystal Palace can be tough to breakdown at their best.

The most recent meeting between the two clubs at Selhurst Park produced only 16 shots - three on-target - and required a late winner from Hakim Ziyech to settle matters. And Palace have produced similarly solid displays when frustrating Manchester City, Manchester United, Spurs and Arsenal this term to varying degrees of success in the Premier League.

With that in-mind, I'm happy to support Under 2.5 Goals at a reasonable 1.92.

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