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Carling Cup Previews

Cardiff v Crystal Palace, (agg 0-1), SF, L2, 19:45

In the Championship so far Cardiff have lost just twice on their home patch, and Palace hold the slenderest of advantages coming to Wales. A 1-0 lead means both sides will want a goal, and both will be looking for a positive start to the game without wanting to expose themselves at the back. Away goals do count, but only after extra time, so the visitors will have to balance just how attacking they want to be against that consideration.

Palace are nothing if not entertaining on the road, not having drawn once in the league, and you suspect that some of the Eagles (the young ones in particular, the Egrets?) will be looking to attack regardless. Their unpredictability and the fact a few Palace players are capable of operating on a higher level than the average Championship pro makes them a difficult proposition, and Cardiff will know that well. For the Eagles both Zaha and Ambrose have three cup goals, and the latter is also a significant threat from set-plays.

Cardiff report no new injury problems following win over Portsmouth, so Kevin McNaughton and Rudy Gestede are Malky Mackay’s only doubts. Palace manager Dougie Freedman looks set to reinstate a few first-teamers after resting them for Blackpool, and the team will also be boosted by the returns of Dean Moxey, Alex Marrow and Sean Scannell.

Don Cowie already has three for Cardiff in the cup, and if the midfielder starts he could be a good bet for first goalscorer with Bet365, at 12/1. For the score I’d probably look around the 13/2 Betfred have a on a 2-0 home win, but having written about the Championship I’m always reticent to try and call what are normally very tight games.

Barclays Premier League

Tottenham v Everton, 19:45

This will be 168th meeting between two of the oldest clubs in the country, and both sides’ 20th game of the season, due to the fixture being postponed because of the riots in August. Tottenham can be very entertaining, as is well known, but with the addition of Landon Donovan to their side Everton have also stepped up their standard of late, and come into this game with a real chance of taking a win. In the league Everton have won three of their last six away games, also picking up a draw, and when David Moyes can pick from a full-fit squad they are a seriously good side.

Tottenham would go second if they won by more than two, although that is fairly unlikely. Five wins and a draw in their last six at White Hart Lane is a very good record, and this is a match they’ll target in the effort to move on up and safeguard their spot in the Champions League places. For the home team Ledley King and William Gallas are both out injured, Scott Parker is set for a late fitness test and Sandro is out with a calf problem. Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka, Tim Cahill, Leon Osman, Jack Rodwell and Tony Hibbert are all doubtful for Everton, so Moyes must decide how much to risk in an already difficult game. Betfred have 6’s on a 1-0 to Spurs, and I don’t see either side romping away with the game unless we a get some Foy-ish refereeing.

 

Carling League Cup

Man City v Liverpool, SF, L1, 19:45

The other semi-final may have suffered a bit in comparison, but the Cardiff-Palace game will throw up a winner that both City and Liverpool will feel confident of beating. The Reds must be hoping the fans let this game go off without a hitch, and that not more controversy is generated, and to be honest that probably applies to the increasingly weary (yet impressive) Roberto Mancini. Both teams are likely to be at full strength despite the short turnaround for the next game, and that means this will be a great contest.

Manchester City lost their appeal over Vincent Kompany’s red card against Manchester United so he begins his four-game ban today. Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko and David Silva are doubts, but Gareth Barry is back after his ban. Liverpool have no new injury worries, and a number of players were rested against Oldham with this game in mind. Steven Gerrard is 7/2 with Paddy Power as an anytime goalscorer, and should start in a game that suits his need to perform on big stages.

Cardiff v Blackburn, QF, 19:45

This is a rare chance for the Blackburn fans to cheer about something, as the league campaign has been abject so far, but the game also represents a significant risk to the boss at Ewood Park, Steve Kean. Cardiff are a small enough team that the fans will expect a win, whilst being big enough and strong enough to turn over the Rovers without too much of a miracle. For the Bluebirds, Mark Hudson and Rudy Gestede could return to the side after injuries, whilst Blackburn will probably have to leave Chris Samba, Martin Olsson and Ryan Nelsen at home due to fitness worries.

Betfred have 10’s on a 2-1 home win, which could well see Steve Kean sacked in the morning. I wonder what the odds on that combination are…

 

Chelsea v Liverpool, QF, 19:45

Kenny Dalglish is extremely unhappy about the timing of this match, given the schedule Liverpool have, and has warned the away fans to think carefully before travelling to London for a game in which the star attractions will most likely not be on show. There will still be a few big names on show, with Craig Bellamy, Jamie Carragher and Andy Carroll all set start this game as Kenny rotates the squad. For Chelsea, John Terry is suspended after he picked up his fifth booking of the term in his last match, an action which has led to accusations he did so deliberately as the Carling Cup is not deemed important by the Stamford Bridge hierarchy, and Raul Meireles is cup-tied

You can get 11/4 with Bet365 on a 1 goal home win, and with the weakened team visiting and the need for a win in the Chelsea squad, I can see the Blues progressing.

 

Arsenal v Man City, QF, 20:00

Arsene Wenger has hinted he will rest players for this game, and given the way he currently relies on Robin van Persie that will come as no surprise. Arsenal are walking a tightrope in trying to stay in the Champions League at the same time as reaching the top four, and the squad has looked increasingly stretched of late. The likes of Park Ju-Young and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will probably feature for the home side, while City will miss Mario Balotelli and Gareth Barry through suspension. However Owen Hargreaves, Kolo Toure and Stefan Savic could all play, and that is a testament to the depth Mancini can call on at present.

SkyBet have 9/1 on City getting a win by 3 or more goals, and if Arsenal play a side like the one that took to the pitch at Old Trafford, it could well go that way.

Carling Cup, Fourth Round

 

Stoke v Liverpool, 19:45

These games are often indicators of how good the squad is at any club, and with the expected rotation comes a difficult game to predict. The likes of Carroll and Agger may play in an effort to get them fitness and form, but Stoke have some pretty good depth to their own squad and could welcome Jonathan Woodgate and Danny Higginbotham back from injury. It’ll be a physical affair, and this will play on the mind of Kenny Dalglish not just over Agger and his fragility, but also in terms of how many youth players he can use.

Andy Carroll is 13/2 with Stan James to get the first, and the Liverpool frontman is ideally equipped to cause trouble for Stoke.

 

Wolverhampton v Man City, 19:45

There could be a rare start for the superbly named City reserve keeper Costel Pantilimon in this match as Roberto Mancini rotates arguably the strongest squad in world football.  Kolo Toure continues to make his way back from his suspension in defence for City too, having lost the armband as well as six months of his career. For Mick McCarthy this game is not ideally timed, as his side have just gained a whiff of confidence after their comeback on the weekend, and can ill afford a pasting the likes of which City handed to their neighbours.

Bet365 have 17/2 on a 2-1 away win, which isn’t bad given the strengths and weaknesses on show.

 

Blackburn v Newcastle, 20:00

Neither of these two really have a lot of strength in depth, and this will be a game featuring a lot of youth and reserve players, some of which may not have done a lot of their work at the top level. Newcastle are flying in the league, but I’d be amazed if Pardew chooses not to rest his first eleven, and for the home team it is a conundrum. The manager knows if he plays the first team they may win and gain in confidence, but that would come at a cost in terms of fitness for the more crucial league matches.

On the other hand, if they lose he could be out of a job on Saturday, and I think Rovers could snatch a 1-0 win, which is 21/2 with Betfair. It would buy the beleaguered boss a little time.

 

Everton v Chelsea, 20:00

When the Merseyside outfit travelled down to London a few weeks back their trip was not only pointless, but quite humiliating, and David Moyes must know there is a very good chance this could turn into an ugly one for Everton. The likes of Oriol Romeu, Ryan Bertrand, Josh McEachran and Romelu Lukaku may start for the away side, and after the QPR game Andre Villas Boas may also choose this fixture to aid Fernando Torres in his quest for form, given that the Spaniard missed the league match through suspension.

You can get 10/1 with SkyBet on Chelsea winning by 3 or more goals, and with the lack of options David Moyes has available that could easily happen if the visitors click.

Carling Cup, Fourth Round

Aldershot v Man Utd, 19:45

This will be an interesting game after the shenanigans at Old Trafford on the weekend, and while I’m sure Sir Alex Ferguson could have wished for a different opponent to get his first team back on track, there will also be a part of the legendary Scot that will be pleased with a winnable contest to blow away the cobwebs. You can expect a bit of squad rotation, with the likes of Michael Owen, Dimitar Berbatov, Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick ready to roll, and there may be a chance to get a place in the starting eleven for a few.

Which brings us to an Aldershot side with no injury worries, and one that was probably feeling pretty good about their match against the biggest guns until Sunday saw United humiliated. I’m guessing there will have been few non-United fans as worried by the consequences of the 1-6 as Shots manager Dean Holdsworth was when he sat thinking about the possible backlash, but he will have to exhort his troops as best he can and keep his fingers crossed.

Michael Owen remains the most natural goalscorer at Old Trafford, and is 5/1 with Betfred to net the first of the game. The former England man plays rarely, but still takes his chances well.

Arsenal v Bolton, 19:45

Finally there is some good news for fans of the Gunners, with the club up into the top half of the table and the potential return of Thomas Vermaelen pencilled in for this evening. Having said that, the club have a match against Chelsea on the weekend, so we may see a fair few youngsters in the home eleven that begins the match. Bolton are likely to bring in the likes of Adam Bogdan, Zat Knight, Gretar Steinsson, Fabrice Muamba, Mark Davies, Ricardo Gardner, Ivan Klasnic and Tuncay Sanli to face the stars of tomorrow’s Arsenal, and those are some decent players to have in the squad.

I’d also be very surprised to see Robin van Persie play, and Wenger may well attempt to inspire Chamakh with another start after the Moroccan’s lacklustre performance for the first hour against Stoke on Saturday. As the January transfer window is a while away, and Arsenal have spent already this year, Arsene needs the players he currently has to work harder and prove the Frenchman right for the faith he has put in them as individuals.

Stan James have 15/4 on a 2-goal home win, and with much rotation that could be a good bet, or a very bad one. Wenger needs a couple of reserves to put their hands up and prove their mettle not just for this game, but going forward.

Brighton v Liverpool, R3, 19:45
Brighton have a chance to make a little bit of club history in this match, being as they are at a new stadium, in a great league position, and meeting a Liverpool team struggling to rediscover their coherence after the international break. Gus Poyet is also the kind of manager that will commit to a moment of glory if I am any judge (so expect him to rest his first team in a pragmatic contradiction of my prediction).
Andy Carroll has struggled in front of goal, but Bet365 have 9/2 on his getting the opening goal of the game. I’d not be surprised if Kenny picked the big Geordie in an attempt to get him firing and fighting fit.

Chelsea v Fulham, R3, 19:45
A London clash between two sides who were almost certainly be forced to pick a second string line-up, due to European commitments and the need to pick up points in the league after less then perfect starts. Having said that, the Chelsea second string may contain Lukaku, Sturridge and a few of the better academy players, where Fulham probably won’t be bringing in any £15m+ players when they rotate the squad.
Betfair have 109/10 on a 3-1 Chelsea win, the same score they lost to United by. That game has prompted an official complaint about the poor decisions made by the officials, and AVB will be hoping for a higher standard this time out.

Man City v Birmingham, R3, 19:45
Birmingham got a bit of a reality check when playing Braga last week, and the signs aren’t great for this matchup. The second-city Blues will probably have promotion in their eye, and given that they could probably play their entire first team and still lose I’d be amazed if they take this match too seriously. City are struggling for players, apparently, but there is a suggestion we may see Owen Hargreaves making his Etihad bow, which in the long term could be great news for Mancini, and maybe even for Fabio Capello.
You can get 7/2 on Balotelli getting the first goal of the game, and again I think the young Italian will be given a chance to shine in this one.

Everton v West Brom, R3, 20:00
While a lot of sides are looking to give some of the younger players in their squad a chance in this competition, Everton are already lining up with a large contingent of under-21’s, and David Moyes’ may be working with the thinnest collection of players in the big league. Brom are now under the stewardship of Roy Hodgson, and he’s certain to be sensible about making sure the club survive in the Premiership this year and prioritising that over a Carling Cup run.
There are 7’s across the board on a 2-1 home win, so I’ll tell you about Ladbrokes having that price. Part of me thinks we’ll actually have a draw, as that is clearly what nobody wants.

Arsenal v Shrewsbury, R3, 19:45

For all that ties like this can appear to be potentially dangerous for a top team, with the ‘nothing to lose’ clichés being trotted out because they are true, I expect Arsene Wenger will be glad of the chance to play this game. Many of his new signings weren’t around for pre-season, and the Gunners have struggled to gel, as was evidenced by their loss to Blackburn. We may even see a few first-team players, who knows?

Chamakh has been on form of late, and is 7/2 to get the first with Bet365. If he takes a chance it’ll reinforce the perception at Arsenal that the Moroccan is coming back to his best.

 

Aston Villa v Bolton, R3, 19:45

These two are in the odd situation of having managers who realistically are thinking about avoiding relegation first and foremost, but Villa at least have a set of fans who are determined the club can win the league. The Carling Cup is a good opportunity to get some silverware, and the result of this game will probably rest on who is willing to commit the most resources to it in a quest to do so.

Betfred will give you 14’s on a 3-1 home win, but until you’ve seen the team sheets it can be very hard to know how this sort of clash will pan out.

 

Leeds v Man United, R3, 19:45

I’m told Leeds used to be quite good at football, before the bloke with the blind spot when it came to wages joined the club, and had a fair few encounters with the other United during that period. For the Leeds fans, possibly the strangest in the universe, this is simply another sign the club is on the way back to the Champions League, and if they could turn Man Utd over I expect Yorkshire might explode.

You can get 19/5 on Berbatov being first scorer, and I’ll be surprised if Fergie doesn’t let his Bulgarian star have a run out in this game, such is the time already spent on the bench this term by the £32m man.

 

Nottingham Forest v Newcastle, R3, 19:45

Dutch Steve is already stamping his feet about not having any new players to hang a promotion campaign on, and he’ll find a kindred spirit in Alan Pardew. The Newcastle manager comes here with Leon Best in top form, which is good news for the Magpies manager, as pretty much every other player he had capable of changing a game has been sold.

Betfair have 64/5 on a 2-0 Newcastle win, and I honestly can’t see the home side doing more than a draw, given how thinly spread their squad is at the moment.

 

Stoke v Tottenham, R3, 19:45

There were two very different weekends for these two sides, and this game is a bit of an odd one as a result. Spurs demolished Liverpool in a scoreline that had a few on either side of the fence sit up and take notice, while Tony Pulis mentioned the travelling his side had done prior to their loss at Sunderland 34 times in his post-match interview, at the same time always refusing to blame it for the performance.

Blue Square have 9/1 on a 2-1 Stoke win, and I think this is a game the home boss will want resolved here and now, as opposed to a replay. A lot again depends on which manager will pick the strongest eleven.

 

Wolverhampton v Millwall, R3, 19:45

When it comes to indignant, pained denial, these two sides take the biscuit and then look hurt when accused of doing so. Mick loves to look offended while all and sundry point out that his side clearly go out an deliberately hurt other players, while Millwall fans are permanently claiming to have changed, although they generally stay the same. A Lion doesn’t change his boots, to mangle some phraseology.

You can get 9/2 with Ladbrokes on Wolves winning by 2 goals, and I doubt very much that’ll be far off when the dust has settled and the crying has stopped.

 

Blackburn v Leyton Orient, R3, 20:00

Steve Kean has bought himself a bit of time with the win over Arsenal, but football can be a funny game sometimes, and I don’t mean the hair stylings of Joey Barton or watching Peter Crouch increasingly resemble a baby giraffe as he gamely flaps a leg at a cross. If Blackburn lose this match it’ll undo all the good work done on the weekend, and Kean will be right back in the chickeny crosshairs of the Venky firing squad.

Hoilett has looked sharp for the Rovers, and Ladbrokes will give you 7/1 on him getting the first, providing the boss is willing to risk such an asset in a game like this.

Aldershot v Carlisle, R2, 19:30
After beating a West Ham side managed by Sam Allardyce in the first round, Aldershot look to continue their cup run with this home match against Carlisle. There is one league difference between the sides, but the League One outfit Carlisle may find the home advantage and atmosphere cancel out any technical superiority, and after the West Ham win Aldershot will certainly believe anything is possible.

Aldershot are 17/2 to win the game 1-0, and that result would make the locals very happy indeed. Carlisle are only a couple of points better for the same result, so the game is finely balanced. Look out for this to be a good, strong match that could produce a lot more goals if it gets going early.

Leyton Orient v Bristol Rovers, R2, 19:45
Another League One versus League Two clash, but with the underdog away the odds may be greater for Bristol to overcome. Rovers beat Watford in a shootout in the first round, which made a few sit up and take notice, but the added financial pressure on Championship sides this season has meant a few managers are talking the Carling Cup down.

Betfred have 8/1 on a 2-1 home win, and while a lot depends on which manager decides to commit the most first-team members the pressure is equally on the Rovers to focus on a good league campaign this year. It should be a good contest, and hopefully a few will decide to trip along and provide a bit of noise to go with the fare on the pitch.

Swindon v Southampton, R2, 19:45
Swindon have been in free fall over the last decade or so, and now find themselves near the bottom of the system and in danger of falling out altogether. Southampton are about as difficult a visitor as you could wish to have without a Premier League side being involved, and the fans may find themselves wishing caution on the manager given that they could potentially get back in the top flight.

I can see this possibly being a very heavy defeat for the home side, but equally a shock if the Saints rest a few or rotate the squad. A lot of the top performers for the visiting side are young and will need to be managed to avoid burn-out, but I think the Saints could win, and the 14/1 on a 3-0 could be money well spent if it comes off.

Aston Villa v Hereford, R2, 19:45
There are shocks in knockout cups, we all know that. Whether Hereford have the class or the belief to go to Villa Park and win the game is another matter. While the hosts don’t have the best squad depth, the mixture of youth and first-team will probably do the job.
Fabian Delph is a squad player likely to start, and is 11/2 with William Hill to score in this one. I’d be astonished if Hereford can take them past tonight’s ninety minutes, but dreams are made of such odds.

Bournemouth v West Brom, R2, 19:45
Roy Hodgson will probably rest a few of the wearier after another loss in the league at the weekend, albeit to another big team. West Brom have got a decent chance of going on a cup good run this year, but Bournemouth will relish their opportunity to test themselves against a Premier League outfit.
Victor Chandler has 16/1 on a 3-0 away win, and the Baggies will hope to get ahead early and put any nerves to the side.

Brighton v Sunderland, R2, 19:45
I reckon this is the game that might be a shock, although the Premier League team are clearly favourites. They travel to the Amex to take on a Brighton side flying in the Championship, with ten points in four games and Gus Poyet in his pomp around the new place.
Betfred will give you 11/1 on a 2-1 home win, and Brighton do have what it takes to win. I probably would be cautious backing a shock, though, as Sunderland have good squad depth and talent.

Northampton v Wolverhampton, R2, 19:45
Some Hamptons clash in another game that may look like a potential for an upset on paper. However, in practise I think this will be a fairly routine win for Wolves. They’ve had a good start in the league, and with a few strong additions made in the summer will look to continue the momentum.
Wolves winning by one is best price of 11/4 with Bet365, although a lot will depend on how many first team players are rested by both teams. Without a European consideration Mick may decide to have a tilt at a good cup run and play a strong side.

Norwich v MK Dons, R2, 19:45
Norwich have enjoyed a couple of draws in the opening of their return to the top flight of English football. Their visitors have been a bit patchy in their start to the season, and Paul Lambert will want to see his Canaries go out and win with style to give the whole club a boost.
Wes Hoolihan is 8’s with Bet365 to score the first, and given his prominent role at set-pieces he could be a good choice. Hopefully a good game will be enjoyed by a decent crowd, and the Dons can put up a good fight, maybe even snatch something against all odds.

QPR v Rochdale, R2, 19:45
Neil Warnock is probably quite busy finding interesting ways to spend millions of pounds at the moment, with the club set to spend after investment, but the wily QPR manager will take a break from shopping to oversee most likely a routine victory in the cup.
Rochdale have begun the season in poor form, and lie in the relegation zone of League One. Paddy Power have 13/2 on QPR to win by three, and the home side should be fairly comfortable.

Shrewsbury v Swansea, R2, 19:45
Swansea would find a loss to League Two side Shrewsbury very embarrassing, but the paucity of options in their squad will make this game tougher than it could be. Brendan Rodgers will want to see a few goals, but also see his players show respect to their hosts.
Bet365 have 11/2 on Scott Sinclair getting the first goal, and the striker should look to get a few notched tonight, and his season really up and running.

Brighton v Gillingham

Brighton christened their lovely new Amex Stadium on Saturday with a feisty win over Doncaster, and for momentum’s sake they’ll want another win here. Gus Poyet would surely love to make his glamorous new den a fortress, and Gillingham are a team his side shouldn’t fear.

Peter Brezovan is in line to start in goal for Brighton, who are assessing Will Hoskins’ hip problem, but striker Craig Mackail-Smith is away on international duty with Scotland. Gillingham are without midfielder Luke Rooney, who is suspended after being sent off against Cheltenham. Dennis Oli missed that game with a virus and is not expected to recover in time for Tuesday’s match.

This is a chance for the Gills to provide an upset, but it will be a tough task for their fairly light squad. If you fancy them Paddy Power offer 15/2 on the visitors to win by one, but it is a fair old punt.

Leeds v Bradford

This one should be an absolute cracker. The hosts are missing a few players through international call ups, and a couple from injury. The Bradford side has been on the slide for quite some time now, while Leeds have rebuilt, but a win here would be a great day and memory for all the away fans.

Having said that, there is a gulf in class these days. A few Leeds fans were very critical of the opening day performance in the Championship, but Gradel or not I expect a home win in this match. It’s probably the tie of the round, and I think the 12/1 offered by William Hill on a 3-1 home win could be a good bet.

Nott’m Forest v Notts County

If any game will rival the Leeds match for intensity it is this one, local rivals meeting in the cup in a really great draw for the neutrals. County have endured some really tough times of late, with broken promises and money the disappeared faster than light, but this could be a ray of sunshine for their beleaguered fans.

Forest also have the extra scalpability (made that word up) of having a former England manager on the bench, in Steve McLaren, and he will no doubt get some stick over the 90 minutes. Goalkeeper Lee Camp and full-back Chris Gunter are both unavailable for Nottingham Forest after being called up for international duty, where Notts County will be without striker Lee Hughes, who was forced off on Saturday with an ankle injury.

BoylesSports offer 6/1 on Lewis McGugan getting back to scoring ways and netting the first, and I can’t see it being long before he starts to bang them in again. Whether the visitor have enough to cause a shock remains to be seen, but it should surely be a good watch.