The first of three all-Premier League ties in the FA Cup fifth round will see relegation strugglers AFC Bournemouth take on underperforming Everton at the Vitality Stadium in Dorset. And while both sides should be more concerned with their league campaign, they can be trusted to try and secure progress to the FA Cup quarter-finals.
AFC Bournemouth have gotten used to defying the odds as they first clinched the Championship title last season before overcoming a difficult start to the Premier League campaign to move away from the relegation zone. There is still a lot of work ahead of the Cherries, but had someone offered them a four-point cushion between themselves and the bottom three with 12 games to go, they would have grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Talented manager Eddie Howe was very unfortunate to have both Callum Wilson and Max Gradel pick up serious injuries in the opening exchanges, but January recruit Benik Afobe has helped the team kick-start their season. The good run of results eventually came to an end as the Cherries suffered back to back defeats to Arsenal and Stoke at their Vitality Stadium, and with the manager expected to rest some first team regulars in the FA Cup clash against Everton, we would not be surprised if they make it three home defeats on the bounce.
The hosts have no fresh selection worries, but there will be changes to the side, with Sylvain Distin, Juan Iturbe, Lewis Grabban and Matt Ritchie all expected to start.
Having failed to meet the expectations last term and with his side experiencing problems this season as well, Roberto Martinez is clearly under pressure and he is not in a position to take any game lightly. The home loss to West Bromwich came at a bad time as the Toffees had notched up three 3-0 wins in a row, and they would have climbed to eighth had they defeated the Baggies at Goodison Park. Nevertheless, Everton have got a perfect opportunity to not only return to winning ways but also remain in the hunt for the FA Cup trophy, and this is why the manager is expected to field a strong side at Vitality Stadium. Martinez will use the opportunity to make several changes to the side, but that is unlikely to damage his side’s chances of progressing to the next stage. The Toffees came incredibly close to winning at Bournemouth in the Premier League encounter, but eventually had to settle for a 3-3 stalemate as Junior Stanislas scored in the eighth minute of injury time.
Roberto Martinez has confirmed that John Stones has recovered from a hamstring injury, while January recruit Omar Niasse is expected to make his debut.
Key Factors to Consider
- The two sides shared spoils in their only meeting so far
- Bournemouth have lost three of last four home games
- Both teams scored in six of their last eight home fixtures
- Everton recorded a 3-0 win in each of their last two away matches
- The Toffees suffered two defeat on the road this term (W8 D7)
AFC Bournemouth have struggled for form of late and they seem to have more important things on their mind at the moment. Meanwhile, Everton have been quite impressive on the road and it would appear as though they want this win more than the opposition. We, therefore, believe the Toffees will make it to the quarter-final.
Verdict: Away win
Best Odds: 5/4