The Carabao Cup, better known as the EFL Cup or the Football League Cup, gets underway this week when the clubs from League One, League Two and the Championship (all bar Hull and Middlesbrough, who finished best placed of the three teams relegated from the Premier League last season) compete in round one.
Andrew Mount gives his predictions and picks for the first round of the Carabao Cup.
Local rivals clash
The first round takes place on a regional basis to cut back on the inconvenience of long midweek journey for teams and supporters. The clubs are seeded to minimise early clashes between Championship rivals. In round two, those Premier League teams not involved in European competition will enter the fray, followed by Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs in round three.
The new Thailand-based sponsors will be hoping that things progress more smoothly than the first-round draw – the Facebook Live feed crashed after the first team was drawn out and Charlton were somehow drawn both away to Exeter and at home to Cheltenham!
Pick of the round one ties include local rivals Sheffield Wednesday versus Chesterfield and the clash between Luton, who came from behind to beat Yeovil 8-2 in their opening League Two fixture, and Championship side Ipswich Town, 1-0 winners at home to Birmingham on the opening weekend.
Bradford to go one further?
League Two side Bradford City reached the final during the 2012-2013 season, becoming the first team from the fourth tier of English football to do so. However, the Bantams were left dreaming what could have been after they lost 5-0 to Swansea City at Wembley.
Like the FA Cup, this competition has been dominated by Premier League teams, with one of Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs lifting the trophy in 11 of the past 13 seasons. Some of the lesser lights in the top echelon have enjoyed good runs in this competition – Birmingham City beat Arsenal 2-1 in 2011 before being relegated and, as previously mentioned, Swansea were victorious five years ago. Southampton, 3-2 losers to Manchester United last year; Sunderland, defeated by Manchester City in 2014; Cardiff City, who lost on penalties to Liverpool in 2012; and Aston Villa, beaten 2-1 by United in 2010, have also flown the flag for those outside the Premier League elite.
League champions Chelsea needed extra time to get past Leicester in round three last year, before going down 2-1 away to West Ham in round four. They head the market at 5/1, but this competition is unlikely to be a priority for Konte’s squad. Unless they have an easy run of home fixtures, another early exit could be on the cards.
Jose and Pep in search of silverware
Last year’s winners Manchester United are next in the betting at 6/1 and, though likely to field squad players in the early rounds, a kind draw could see them make the latter stages. Repeat winners are rare but United defended the Cup successfully in 2010, becoming the first team to do so since Nottingham Forest (winners in 1989 and 1990). Jose Mourinho’s men certainly won’t give up the trophy without a fight.
Manchester City, also available at 6/1, have a good recent record, lifting the trophy in both 2014 and in 2016. They went out in round four last year, losing 1-0 away to arch rivals and eventual winners, United.
Liverpool to go all the way
8/1 shots Arsenal have a better recent pedigree in the FA Cup and haven’t lifted the League version since 1993, though did make the final in 2007 and in 2011, losing 2-1 to Chelsea and Birmingham respectively. The Gunners crashed out at home to Southampton in round five last year.
Liverpool hold the record of eight wins in this competition since its inception in the 1960-61 season, and came close to making it nine in 2016 before losing on penalties to Manchester City. Like Chelsea, they have bigger priorities this season, but they take this cup seriously and made the semi-finals last year, losing 1-0 in both legs to Southampton. Odds of 10/1 are appealing.
Spurs, also available at 10/1, have twice lost in the final since lifting the trophy in 2008. They will play their home league games at Wembley stadium this season and will certainly enjoy an advantage if they make the final. They have a solid cup pedigree and it was no disgrace to go out at the hands of Liverpool (away) in round four last year.
Of those outside the top six, newly-promoted Newcastle United (50/1) are worth a second glance. They enjoyed a good run in the competition last year, narrowly missing out on a semi-final after losing out to Hull City on penalties in round five.
Carabao Cup Predictions
Dangers: Manchester City, Manchester United, Spurs
Outsider: Newcastle United