The first trophy of any domestic football season is always fiercely competed for, but in particular in England. The big clubs see it a way of putting down a marker, smaller less successful teams want to book a trophy win of any sort to buy time. Minnows dream of breaking the hierarchy to claim a precious piece of silverware.
Who’ll prevail in this week’s semi-finals? Of the four teams, each of those types are represented, with the holders, a big rival, a sleeping giant and a minnow all going into battle.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Brentford (Tuesday, 7.45pm GMT kick-off)
This match-up pits Jose Mourinho’s Spurs against West London club Brentford in a David vs. Goliath fight to the death… well, a one-legged semi-final at Spurs’ home ground. It’s likely to be the Lilywhites who make the early moves as getting to the Wembley showpiece would be massive for Mourinho and a club in general who have been starved of trophies in recent decades.
Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min are both likely to scare Brentford, but they will have weapons of their own at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. With Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins both departing for claret-coloured Premier League sides West Ham and Aston Villa specifically, The Bees will rely more on Ivan Toney, who with 16 goals is by far the Championship side’s top scorer. Interestingly, Brentford are often favoureites in the race to become the next ‘new’ team to play in the Premier League, meaning a team which has never played in the top league since the inaugural season for the EPL in 1992/93.
We think that might happen this year, possibly in the play-offs, but in the Carabao Cup it’s hard not to see their glorious run coming to an end.
Our tips: Spurs to win by two goals (10/3) and Son-Heung-Min to score at any time (11/10)
Manchester United vs. Manchester City (Wednesday, 7.45pm GMT kick-off)
The other semi-final is a lot closer to call and features two sides in great form. United come into this game unbeaten in 10 Premier League games and joint-top with a game in hand on rivals Liverpool. By contrast, Manchester City have endured some mixed results in domestic competition this season, but if they win their games in hand, they’d go above Liverpool too.
In last year’s Carabao Cup, these teams met at the same stage, but it was a two-legged affair. This actually favours City, who won at a canter at Old Trafford in a devastating display not dissimilar to that which did for Chelsea on Sunday afternoon. Indeed, it was exactly the same scoreline as at Stamford Bridge when these two sides met 11 months ago.
City come into the game that bit more rested, with players out through COVID-19 tests forcing positive changes in the selection. If City are to win, it’s likely to come with a first half display of attacking intent. If City don’t win, then United are surely going to cause their inexperienced American keeper Zack Steffen problems, and in particular, a lightning quick wing-forward with bags of talent who is sure to start. Both bets could even come in.
Our tips: Manchester City to be winning at half-time and full-time (23/10) & Mason Greenwood to score at any time (33/10)
Current Odds to win EFL Cup:
Manchester City – 5/4
Tottenham Hotspur – 2/1 – Our tip
Manchester United – 7/2
Brentford – 20/1