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Back both teams to score (-105)
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Chelsea experienced every emotion possible in their Champions League game against Real Madrid on Tuesday. Trailing 3-1 from the first leg after Karim Benzema’s masterclass at Stamford Bridge, the Blues travelled to the Spanish capital with belief and determination. They were the better team from the get-go, and by the 51st minute Thomas Tuchel’s side had canceled out the two-goal deficit to level the scores on aggregate.
Things would get even better for Chelsea, who went ahead in the tie for the first time when Timo Werner scored their third goal at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu with 15 minutes of regulation time left on the clock. At that point the defending champions were going through. However, a moment of magic from Luka Modric set up Rodrygo to score, before Karim Benzema made it 5-4 to Madrid on aggregate in extra time. Try as they might, Chelsea were unable to score again.
It was a valiant effort from Tuchel’s side, who can have no regrets about how they performed in Madrid (their first-leg display remains a source of frustration, though). The Chelsea boss has had the task in recent days of refocusing minds on Sunday’s match at Wembley. The FA Cup represents the west Londoners’ last chance to win a trophy this term, but with Liverpool and Manchester City still in the competition that will not be easy.
Chelsea should not underestimate Crystal Palace, but if the Blues play to their potential they will emerge triumphant this weekend. Much will depend on how quickly they can get the disappointment of Tuesday out of their system. If there is a hangover from their Champions League elimination, Palace have the potential to take full advantage.
This has been an enjoyable season for Crystal Palace fans. Roy Hodgson did a good job of keeping the club clear of the relegation battle throughout his four years at the helm, but the style of soccer was not exactly thrilling. Patrick Vieira has made Palace much easier on the eye this term, and there has not been a compromise in terms of results. The Eagles are currently 10th in the Premier League – they have only finished that high in the top tier once since 1992.
Palace are not really used to being in FA Cup semi-finals either. They have made it to this stage of the competition only four times before, and have reached the final just twice. In both of those previous appearances in the showpiece event, the south Londoners were defeated by Manchester United.
The Red Devils are not around to deny Palace silverware this time, but Vieira’s side face a daunting task to get their hands on the trophy with the Premier League’s top three completing the set for the semi-finals.
Yet Palace have shown this season that, on their day, they can give anyone a game. They beat Manchester City 2-0 away from home and then drew 0-0 with them in the return fixture. The Eagles also pushed Liverpool and Chelsea close at Selhurst Park, where Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur were dispatched 3-0. Palace regularly raise their game for the big occasion, and Vieira will hope that is also the case on Sunday.
There is reason to believe Palace can, at the very least, make Chelsea work for their victory this weekend. The Eagles may have lost 2-1 to Leicester City last time out, but that was their first defeat in eight matches in all competitions. Palace have been able to strike a better balance between attack and defense in recent weeks, registering four clean sheets in their last five outings.
There is also the matter of preparation time. Palace have had a full week to get ready for this game. While Chelsea were contesting 120 minutes of hard-fought action in Spain, Vieira’s players were relaxing at their homes. Palace will be physically and mentally fresher at Wembley.
Chelsea, of course, deserves to be favorite. They have a higher class of players than Palace, and their strength in depth is such that Tuchel will be able to change the game from the bench if it is not going his team’s way. Even when Palace played well against Chelsea at Selhurst Park, they ultimately lost the match.
From a betting perspective, both teams to score is the way to go. Palace have found the back of the net in all but one of their last eight encounters – and that was against Manchester City. Chelsea, meanwhile, have shipped nine goals in their four games in April.
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|Chelsea vs Crystal Palace Information|
|Teams||Chelsea vs Crystal Palace|
|Location||Wembley Stadium, London, England|
|Time||Sunday, 17 April 2022, 11.30 AM EDT|
|How to watch||ESPN+|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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