After five ties were played and settled on Tuesday night, the last 16 of the Carabao Cup comes to its conclusion this evening with three all-Premier League ties. One could argue about which of these is the standout tie, and in all honesty there are winning points to be made for at least two. Instead of picking just one, then, we’re going to preview all three of the Wednesday matches and find what the bookmakers are offering by way of odds for this evening’s games.
The night kicks off at Anfield with Liverpool facing Arsenal (19:30), where a win for the visitors may release some of the pressure on boss Unai Emery after a series of lacklustre league results. We then move on to the West Midlands, where a derby fixture between Aston Villa and Wolves (19:45) may be viewed more as a distraction by two clubs who have had tough starts to the season but are beginning to find form. Finally, it’s to Stamford Bridge (20:05), where Frank Lampard will be giddy at having an excuse to throw more youngsters into his Chelsea XI, and hope to gain revenge on a Manchester United side whose 4-0 win over the Blues on the opening day of the season may well be the best result the Red Devils achieve in this campaign.
Different side, same outcome for Pool
Having achieved a superb 28 points from the first ten games of this season, Liverpool are sitting comfortably atop the Premier League and, after a dodgy opening game, their bid to retain the Champions League is warming up too. So it could be argued that the best thing for them is to create space elsewhere in their season – for instance, by getting knocked out of the EFL Cup. This is something that is made more likely by the fact they are almost certain to field a barely recognisable starting XI this evening – as is the tradition in this competition.
However, football doesn’t quite work that way – Liverpool will be setting out to win, and doing it against an Arsenal side that will also be weakened by squad rotation. The fact that the tie is at Anfield, and the more coherent tactical approach favoured by the Reds, will probably be enough to ensure it is the home side that progress. It’s also worth having a punt on Divock Origi at 9/2 with BetVictor to score the opening goal. He may be behind the Salah-Firmino-Mane forward line in the pecking order, but when he gets an opportunity he’s liable to make it count.
West Midlands rivalry renewed at Villa Park
Aston Villa’s return to the Premier League has gone better than some people may have expected, with the club presently sitting in fifteenth place in the division on eleven points. Sure, three spots lower and they’d be in the relegation zone – but in the 2015-16 season, they picked up a total of 17 points, so this is definitely looking better. Tonight, they face local rivals Wolves, who have leapfrogged Villa to become the top team in the East Midlands – they were even excused second-round duty in this competition because of their involvement in the Europa League.
This game is a genuinely tricky one to call. After a poor start to the campaign, Wolves have picked up and are now performing well in Europe and domestically, while Villa have comfortably won two away ties in this competition and will benefit from home advantage this evening. Of the three ties this evening, this is the one with the greatest potential to end up being settled on penalties. At Betway, you can back a score draw in 90 minutes at 7/2, which is a very realistic possibility in a match which will be all the tighter due to local rivalry.
Chelsea and United to look to the future
Because the vast majority of Premier League sides treat this competition as a way to rotate their squads and give younger players some experience, it is always hard to predict what a starting line-up will look like in the Carabao Cup. Both Manchester United and Chelsea have European commitments alongside trying to finish as high up the league as possible, so they’re guaranteed to rest a number of first teamers – with Chelsea likely to go even further in blooding youngsters given boss Lampard’s decision to prioritise the youth system at his club.
That also makes games a little harder to predict. Players can show great form in age-group football but take a bit longer to hit their straps in first-team action in front of bigger crowds in larger stadia. However, there is a significant advantage for Chelsea in the fact that their younger players have been gaining first-team experience in the league – partly because of the transfer ban that has prevented the club signing any more experienced players, but never mind that. Since the start of this campaign, attacking midfielder Mason Mount has been influential in the Blues’ impressive run, and been selected for England. He’s 11/4 with Paddy Power to score any time tonight, and that’s a bet worth taking.
Bets of the Day
Aston Villa vs Wolves to be a Score Draw (Betway, 7/2); Mason Mount to score anytime (Paddy Power, 11/4); Divock Origi to score first (BetVictor, 9/2)