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Carabao Kernels to Keep the Cash Coming in

A mismatch, a grudge game and the introduction of video assistant referees, the Carabao Cup hasn’t been high on many fans agenda this season, but this week’s semi-finals look to have something for everyone – including punters.

Dan Roebuck, football betting expert, previews this one…

I’m probably being a little unfair calling the the Manchester City-Bristol City fixture a mismatch, as the Robins famously knocked Manchester United out of the competition in the previous round and Pep Guardiola’s team have won only one of three ties in 90 minutes in this year’s renewal, needing penalties to overcome Wolves and Leicester.

However, as the champions-elect are quoted at 1/18 to progress to next month’s final, it is probably true.

The all capital clash between Arsenal and Chelsea is a different animal, with last week’s thrilling but controversial 2-2 draw in the league still fresh in the memory.

Rotated Robins to Relish Etihad Examination

Bristol City’s clinical display against Jose Mourinho’s team will also go down as one of the games of the season.

The big question now is: can they go one better and defeat Manchester City?

Lee Johnson rested seven players in his side’s defeat at Watford in the FA Cup, leaving no doubt that he prioritises the League Cup. And why shouldn’t he, after knocking out four top-flight sides this term.

City have been vulnerable in this competition, but have found a way via shootouts in both of the last two rounds. Guardiola has bemoaned the English football schedule in recent press conferences, suggesting that the amount of games over the Christmas and New Year period is ‘killing his players’, but he still named a strong side against Burnley in the FA Cup at the weekend and it’s possible that the Robins will prove difficult to break down at the Etihad.

City are 8/13 favourites to lift the first piece of silverware this term, while the West Country club trade at 33/1 for glory at Wembley next month (and 8/1 to make the final).

Under 2.5 goals has been the surprising trend for City games in this year’s League Cup, and, at 49/20, it could be worth backing again.

I couldn’t punt City at 2/15 to grab a first leg lead, while the 16/1 that the visitors will spring a surprise and win away looks too fanciful.

Could it be another draw at full time at 15/2?

It’s tempting, but a better play might be to back Johnson’s men at 17/20 on the Asian Handicap, getting a 2.5 goal start.

Conte and Wenger Set for Trial by TV

After two controversial penalty decisions in last week’s Arsenal-Chelsea Premier League fixture – one given, one not – the introduction of video assistant referees for the second semi-final of the Carabao Cup is almost certain to cause debate.

The system, in use in Germany and Italy this season, is not without fault and can cause confusion and consternation as well as clarity.

The Gunners boss certainly would have been in favour of VAR after his team’s reverse at Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, when it appeared the Championship side’s second penalty should not have been given and then, to add insult to injury, a ‘double hit’ was performed when the spot kick was taken that should have signalled for the goal to be disallowed.

As for this first leg Carabao Cup affair, I doubt whether it will be as open as the league draw played out between the pair last week.

However, with the Gunners leaky defence, it seems unlikely that Antonio Conte’s men won’t score.

With Alvaro Morata misfiring at the moment, Eden Hazard should be backed to net at Stamford Bridge – the Belgian trades at 27/5 for the opener and 37/20 to score at any time. Hazard can boast four goals in his last nine starts against Arsenal.

With Wenger set to watch the match from the stands, as he endures the second of a three-game touchline ban, it’s hard to tip Arsenal at 13/4, although Chelsea’s record against top six sides this term (two wins from six matches) suggests the 4/5 is too short about a home win.

The Blues are 11/4 to win the Carabao Cup, with Arsenal 5/1, but this two-legged affair could be tighter than many think, with the Gunners attractively priced at 7/5 to progress to the final – something they could do even if they lose the first leg.

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