Nottingham Forest host Manchester United in the EFL Cup semi-final on Wednesday evening (8pm). Can the Tricky Trees continue moving in the right direction after their late equaliser at the weekend? Or will the visitors atone for their late defeat against the table toppers? This NFFC vs MUFC preview plans to find out before deciding on our betting tips.
Nottingham Forest’s under-the-radar improvement continued last time out. They very nearly took the lead against relegation rivals Bournemouth, but Wily Boly was adjudged to be offside when he deftly headed back across goal for Ryan Yates, who saw his tap-in finish ruled out by VAR. They then went behind, but clawed their way back in to the game, dominating for large parts of the second half before Sam Surridge popped up to notch against his old side, earning Forest a point.
Steve Cooper’s men have now avoided defeat in each of their last three in all competitions, which should mean that they come into this semi-final first leg feeling quietly confident. The fact that they are in the final four of this Carabao Cup knockout competition perhaps shows the progress made since Cooper took over.
It was upset for Wednesday’s visitors, Man Utd, last time out, as they conceded a last-ditch loser to Premier League leaders Arsenal. MUFC were once in front at the Emirates, while they came from behind too. Ultimately the Red Devils left London with nothing to show for their efforts, picking up no points for the first time since November.
In general, Erik ten Hag’s men have ticked along steadily, though that is now two games in a row where they have been hit with a crushing blow at the death. They are also without a clean sheet in three, which should give the hosts here reason to be optimistic. Then again, when this pair met just a month ago, it was Manchester United who came out on top in relatively simple fashion, winning by two goals to nil.
Hosts can tussle at home
Cooper’s men are in still in a relegation battle, there can be no denying that. They may sit in 13th position in the EPL, but they are just four points above the drop, so there is still plenty of work to do in that sense. The good is that they are doing that work and are now looking far more capable of surviving than they were a few months ago.
If they are to stay in the Premier League, then their home form will be key. At the City Ground, Forest have really tightened up, while they have improved in the offensive third too. They are now unbeaten in eight home games in all competitions, which is impressive. During that time, they have beaten the likes of Leicester, Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Liverpool. So they are certainly not averse to a big result. Even more impressively, they have conceded either one goal or less in each of their last five at home, as well as in seven of their last eight. If the visitors are thinking it will be a repeat of the December renewal of this fixture, then they might have to think again.
Visitors still up and down on the road
It is easy to see that things have improved under ten Hag, that must be said. The Red Devils now do a much better job of dominating on home soil, while they look far more together as a team. However, they are far from the complete package, and that has been there for all to see when they have played away from the comforts of home.
Yes, they can be forgiven for losing to a team that is looking more and more likely to win the Premier League, but that is now just two wins in their last six domestic away games. They have kept one clean sheet during that time, conceding a total of nine. They have scored a total of seven during that spell, which isn’t likely to strike fear into the heart of Wednesday’s hosts.
Hosts to hold firm
There is reason to feel that Notts Forest can get a positive result here. For starters, they have shown themselves to be capable of standing up to the big teams at home, beating Spurs in this competition, defeating Liverpool and drawing with Chelsea in the Premier League.
Moreover, the fact that this is a two-legged tie should help the hosts. The visitors will not want to go all out and leave themselves exposed, as Erik ten Hag and his men will strongly fancy themselves to get the job done at Old Trafford. Such thinking could very easily leave this one finely poised ahead of the second leg, so taking ‘Nottingham Forest +1 goal Handicap’ in the betting is far from the worst idea.
After all, Cooper’s squad not only have a strong recent home record in terms of results, but they have bettered both Chelsea and Leicester in terms of expected goals at this venue recently, showing that they can create more than teams supposedly better than themselves. They have also outplayed their opponents in terms of xG in six of their last eight league games at home, bettering the likes of Liverpool and Fulham as well as Chelsea and Leicester. So do not be surprised if they keep this tie alive ahead of the second leg.
NFFC vs MUFC League Cup tie: Expect Lack of goals?
As a secondary option, ‘Under 2.5 Goals’ stands out as a viable play. Both teams lack an out-and-out scorer. Taiwo Awoniyi is Forest’s top scorer with four goals in the league, but he’s far from prolific, while he is also an injury doubt, which lessens their threat.
Man Utd have lots of clever attacking players, but nobody is scoring regularly besides Marcus Rashford, while they haven’t made a habit of scoring lots of goals on the road, scoring more than once in only one of their last six domestic away games. Similarly, less than three match goals have been scored in each of Forest’s last five home games in all competitions.
So for this Carabao Cup NFFC vs MUFC first leg EFL League Cup clash, these are our advised betting tips for this preview:
- Nottingham Forest +1 goal on the handicap @ biggest odds of 6/5 with Betfred.
- Under 2.5 goals @ best odds of 19/20 with Bet365.
Bradley Gibbs is an experienced football writer. He is an expert analyst on Premier League, and all global football leagues & tournaments, for Just Bookies. Bradley has been published by many respected outlets, including USA Betting and the Racing & Football Outlook. He has also written betting strategy guides.