Can The Saints Immortalise Their Names In History?
This season’s first piece of silverware will be handed over at Wembley Stadium this Sunday, with Manchester United locking horns with Southampton in the EFL Cup Final.
With an intriguing showpiece in prospect, Adrian Clarke looks ahead to the game…
Remember 1976? No, me neither, but it’s a year that’s etched into the memories of Southampton fans, who won’t ever forget Bobby Stokes inspiring the Second Division heroes to FA Cup glory – a fairytale triumph that remains the South Coast club’s one and only major trophy.
Guess who they beat that day? Manchester United.
It’s little wonder then, that excited supporters feel like the omens are with them this weekend. If you believe history can repeat itself at the national stadium, 1-0 to Southampton is attractively priced up with Grosvenor Sport at 11/1.
When you study their route to the final, it’s crazy not to give the Saints a prayer.
You Can’t Get Beat If You Keep A Clean Sheet
Beating an all Premier League cast of Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Arsenal and Liverpool (over two legs) to reach this stage, Claude Puel’s men are yet to concede a single goal. Not one!
They’ve been solidity personified, and it would be some story if they can pull off a sixth straight EFL Cup shutout.
Given United’s firepower you’d hesitate to back them, but we thought the same in the last two rounds, so perhaps the 33/10 on a Southampton clean sheet isn’t as daft as it sounds.
You could double that up with the 9/2 on them scoring first and winning the game in 90 minutes; a feat they’ve managed in all five contests en route to north west London.
Who Might The Next Bobby Stokes be?
Razor sharp new boy Manolo Gabbiadiani is the obvious call with his three goals in two starts for Southampton, and is at 7/2 to score anytime, but how about a left field choice?
He hasn’t scored this season, but for me Steven Davis has been a true unsung hero, and I have a hunch he’ll play well again in this one. The spirited Northern Irishman is 24/1 to net the opener or 21/2 to score in 90 minutes.
Stranger things have happened; remember Wigan’s Ben Watson?
This trophy may not be priority number one for Manchester United, but winning it may well be a seminal moment in Jose Mourinho’s Old Trafford reign.
Everywhere the 54-year-old has been, he’s kicked off a silver-laden spree with a cup success, and this may be the pre-cursor to a period of sustained glory. His fast-improving team certainly looks like they’re heading in the right direction.
Mourinho’s Cup Final Management
He’s won all four of the English finals he’s contested, and has a 10 from 12 record overall in his career. Impressively, his last five final wins have all featured clean sheets too.
With that in mind the 1-0 (5/1) and 2-0 (7/1) are scores to consider.
He also has a big-game player leading the line, and that helps. All eyes will be on Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his first English showpiece, and it would be no surprise to see him hog the headlines.
He thumped home a towering header against the Saints at Old Trafford, which he’s priced up at 13/2 to repeat here (header only); and on that balmy August evening, that strike was part of a two-goal haul for the Swede. Odds of 7/1 are being offered for him to score another brace at Claude Puel’s expense.
And Grosvenor Sport have boosted Zlatan from 3/1 to 7/2 to score the first goal.
It Should Be A Fascinating Final
I can find legitimate reasons to support either team’s chances, but my overriding feeling is that it will be a close-run thing. They each know how to be patient, they can defend, and with so much at stake for differing reasons I can easily envisage a tactical affair.
Four of the last nine League Cup Finals have gone to extra time, and I suspect this one is heading in that direction too. You can find 27/10 on the draw and 13/2 on 1-1.
If you push me for a winner, it would have to be United though. In cup finals Mourinho knows how to get the job done.
You can watch every kick of the EFL Cup Final in comfort at any one of Grosvenor’s 53 local casinos in the UK. Kick-off is at 16:30 on Sunday afternoon.
Image: Wikipedia (Creative Commons – Attribution 4.0)