As the unloved sister to the FA Cup, the EFL Cup would seem ripe for an upset winner. With the importance of going as far in, and qualifying for, the Champions League as possible for the top 5 of 6 teams, and then the multitude of teams that are involved with relegation, Premier League clubs have bigger issues and of course, the lustre of the FA Cup to boot.
However, the results would tell a very different story. Since 2010, the winners read: Manchester United, Birmingham, Liverpool, Swansea, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United, an illustrious roll of honour for a competition that is so derided by commentators and fans.
With more money than ever in the Top 6 and more players playing for a finite amount of spaces, this competition offers a chance to impress more than ever and it may be that the cream rises to the top once again.
The two biggest and deepest squads in the Premier League arguably belong to the two title favourites in Manchester City and Manchester United, and they could well take the beating. City’s attacking strength has always been hugely impressive but Pep’s recent transfer spree has taken the depth he has to almost ridiculous levels.
Attacking players Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane, and Bernado Silva started on the bench for their 6-0 win against Watford whilst Eliaquim Mangala and Danilo were ready to cover in defence whilst Fabian Delph can be expected to get a run of games in midfield.
Guardiola is fond of using the cup to get some game time for youth players, having given Kelechi Iheanacho, Aleix Garcia Serrano and Pablo Maffeo Becerra game time in their 1-0 defeat at Manchester United in the fourth round, but he has more high class senior players than ever – Yaya Tour hasn’t even managed to get a game yet this season – and we should see a passable side for tonight’s tricky tie to West Brom away before the Last 16.
United make appeal for slightly reasons. Jose Mourinho went hard at the trophy and was rewarded last season despite United being in a battle for top 4 places – having also played Europa League football – and he sent out a first XI of De Gea, Valencia, Rojo, Blind, Shaw, Carrick, Herrera, Mata, Pogba, Rashford and Ibrahimovic for their 1-0 win against then holders and local rivals City.
He has more depth this season following some big summer spending and also a particular affinity with this trophy, having won it four times in seven seasons, and a first tie at home to Burton is as kind a draw as they could have asked for.
Liverpool have a fine recent record in the competition, but they also have a tricky opening tie at Leicester this evening and surely the Champions League and Premier League will take centre stage for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Arsenal’s record in this simply doesn’t match upto their FA Cup exploits over the past few years, and with the Europa League also offering a potential avenue to Champions League football, they do not make a whole lot of appeal. Tottenham’s Wembley troubles are overplayed, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side appear to have a first choice selection of about 15 players, and it’s unlikely that he will make early risks as he has a strong footing in the Champions League to boot.
Chelsea went out last season at West Ham, but Antonio Conte had played a very strong side there to his credit. However, a strong Champions League group with Roma and Atletico Madrid is sure to take priority this time around and a raft of young players being out on loan leave them lacking appeal at just 7/1.
Everton could find this competition ideal and they could do with a win against Sunderland tonight. They had been dreadful until an improved performance against Manchester United on Sunday when 4-0 was hugely flattering towards the home side after a flurry of late goals. Sandro, Mirallas, Klaassen, Besic, Stekelenburg, Calvert-Lewin and Holgate all started on the bench and a side of their calibre ought to recover form sooner rather than later. With a decent draw, quotes of 16/1 could easily shorten and they may have been judged too quickly.
Through the rest of the Premier League, Stoke could be interesting after a decent start before defeat at Newcastle, although a trip to Bristol City is not the easiest task they’ll have to measure.
No other clubs make particularly great appeal, for all that there are a number of strong starting Championship Clubs who look set for successful seasons. Leeds and Wolves are joint top but only five point separates them from Nottingham Forest in 10th although Wolves have the best draw of any Championship side with Bristol Rovers at home.
2 pts win Manchester City (6/1 general)
2 pts win Manchester United (6/1 Stan James, Paddy Power)