The competition nobody wants to win. As unfair as that might sound to the organisers, that is the attitude towards the Capital One Cup that has prevailed in English football and it makes the “third competition” a very difficult and intriguing betting heat to predict in advance.
With most teams opting to play their second sides, the logic goes that the biggest teams – with the largest squads, as their budgets demand – should win and while most recent winners have gone to form, it makes sense to look for bigger prices; Swansea and Birmingham City have won this in the last 5 years while Aston Villa, Cardiff, Bradford and Sunderland have made finals.
Having said that, it must be painfully boring to suggest dutching Chelsea and Manchester City but it worked last year and both teams have only strengthened their squads over the summer. This of course is to chase the Champions and Premier League but on the basis that everyone rings the changes player class counts for a lot and the age old adage of squad competition is still a motivating factor.
For example, when Chelsea won at Arsenal last year in this competiton, their starting 11 read: Schwarzer, Luiz, Cahill, Azpilcueta, Bertand, Essien, Mikel, Willian, Mata, De Bruyne and Eto’o.
The loan squad roundabout has continued apace – many of the names there have either left or gone out to others clubs to join the 26 in Stamford Bridge colours – but they are overflowing with attacking midfielders – Andre Schurrle and Oscar were on the bench for Sunday’s trip to Manchester City for example – and no matter who plays it’s hard to see a side that will go off favoured to beat them apart from
City had a scare against Newcastle away in the second round and a fair draw apart from that but they lined up in their quarter final against Leicester with Hart, Kompany, Zabaleta, Lescott, Kolarov, Milner, Javi Garcia, Juesus Navas, Rodwell, David Silva and Edin Dzeko.
Maneul Pellegrini may have been anxious to earn silverware in his first season at the club at the first stage but his squad is still overflowing with the kind of talent that the millions there should buy. At centreback in his 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Sunday he played Vincent Kompany and Elaquim Managala which leaves Martin DeMechelis and Matia Nastastic as an alterative pairing; At fullback he had Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna on the bench; Willy Cabalero will surely get starts in goal.
The midfield ranks are overflowing with Frank Lampard a potential contender for starts alongside James Milner for example while Edin Dzeko should have a run of starts in this completion; If not him, then Stefan Jovetic to lead what would be a frontline potent enough for most league games.
Manchester City were much the best team in the competition last year, even accounting for a soft draw, while Chelsea would have been disappointed to lose out to Sunderland they did deservedly get to the final by beating Manchester United and the two should be thereabouts. Easy ties against Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton should see them inot the fourth round easily and they
Liverpool’s squad should be much better acquainted with eachother by the later rounds – as badly as they’ve played so far, there are key singings yet to get gametime (think Emre Can and Adam Lallana) – but they are already struggling ahead of a tough tie with an in form Middlesbrough and it’s not likely that they will desperately want this competition when the going gets tough.
Arsenal’s massive reservoir of attacking midfielders is a bonus for this competition, but their lack of depth upfront and in the back four isn’t, hence why they’re passed over; Tottenham have a first XI capable of going a long way but their much changed Europa League side has failed to impress which is disconcerting. They have a tough game against Southampton to open up with, as the Saints have signed extremely well and in their trip to Milwall played Frazer Forster, Nathaniel Clynce, Jose Fonte, Victor Wanyama, James Ward-Prose, Shane Long, and Graziano Pelle with Jack Cork coming on to score the opener. Arsenal’s rumoured side at home however, should feel confident of having enough to edge the tie, so those two are best left.
Everton – unless they go for it on the teamsheets – may lack the sufficient squad depth for a challenge and face a difficult opening tie against Swansea, who may be value for another trophy challenge. This competition is often ignored by most teams but Swansea are in that rare sweet spot of being a top flight side with no European commitments who should not be looking over their shoulder at relegation, the perfect credentials boasted by the Welsh side when they won this trophy two years ago.
In their first round win they played Nathan Dyer, Bafetembi Gomis, and Jefferson Montero in attacking positions, and with Garry Monk seemingly keen on a prolonged run, they can go very well.
2 pts Chelsea (11/2 Bwin)
2 pts Manchester City (11/2 Winnner, TitanBet)
1 pt each/way Swansea (33/1 general)