Keep it clean at the Bridge
A Chelsea win to nil looks worthy of support at odds-against on Sunday, says our Ben Coley.
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When two out-of-form sides take each other on it's usually wise to avoid the match prices - but I don't think that's the case when Sheffield United host Fulham.
United's 2-1 win at Villa Park in round three demonstrates what they can do, but for the life of me I can't have them as favourites despite home advantage and Fulham are surely worth chancing.
- 2.5pts Chelsea to beat Stoke to nil at 11/10 (betway) - Stoke have failed to score in five of their last six at Stamford Bridge and remain poor on the road
- 1pt Fulham to beat Sheffield United at 7/4 (Paddy Power, bet365) - not sure the Premier League side should be marginal outsiders and there was promise in their latest effort
It's fair to say that Rene Meulensteen hasn't quite had the impact many had hoped since replacing Martin Jol, and at times Fulham have looked lost whether playing at home or away. However, they've won as many matches under their new manager as his predecessor in far fewer games and I'm not convinced they're the lost cause many would have you believe.
Certainly, they provided reason for optimism despite losing at Arsenal last weekend. Fulham have never won away to the Premier League leaders but had more than one chance to take the lead before five minutes of sustained quality from the hosts proved the difference in a 2-0 Arsenal win.
That sort of performance level would surely see Fulham win at Bramall Lane. After all, United are some 47 places lower in the league standings than their visitors and are hardly pulling up any trees in League One, despite a recent upturn in fortunes.
I was on them when they won at Villa but they were five times the price in the draw-no-bet market that day - this time around they're marginal favourites at 7/4 and that's far too short.
Fulham have won at Norwich, Crystal Palace and Sunderland this season to demonstrate that they have what it takes to win here for the first time in two decades.
In the day's other tie, Chelsea should continue their fine FA Cup record with a straightforward victory over Stoke.
Jose Mourinho's side are unbeaten in 10 matches since they lost to Stoke in the league, but that came at the Britannia Stadium and back on home soil they'll be confident of gaining revenge.
It's worth repeating that Stoke are the worst team in the Premier League away from home and have already lost at Anfield, White Hart Lane, Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium.
Their last 13 games against Chelsea - that figure incorporates all meetings since the turn of the century - have yielded just that one win at the Britannia, and at Stamford Bridge they've lost six from six and scored just one goal in the process.
Given that last weekend's defeat at Crystal Palace means Stoke still have work to do to ensure their survival in the top-flight, I find it hard to imagine them giving their all in this competition and another straightforward win for Chelsea is firmly on the cards.
Sky Bet go odds-against about Chelsea winning to nil and that looks pretty generous. Chelsea have won their last six, four to nil, and it's notable that the only sides to have scored against them during this run are Manchester United and Liverpool. Hull, Derby, Swansea and Southampton have all failed and I can see Stoke following suit.
- The Chelsea game is being televised live in the UK on ITV, with the match at Sheffield United on BT Sport.