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Big Teams Head Bookies 2018/19 Carabao Cup Odds
The EFL Cup has been dominated by England’s biggest clubs in recent years, and the bookies clearly see no reason to believe that situation will change during the 2018-19 season, writes Nick.
The top six finishers in the Premier League last season represent the top six pre-season favourites in the EFL Cup odds to lift the trophy come February 2019. Those rankings are topped by holders Manchester City, who have won the competition in three of the last five years.
Man City defeated Arsenal 3-0 in last year’s final and are certainly as good as bet as any to triumph again this year. However, all of the teams at the top end of the Premier League have squads that are large and talented enough to see them through to the latter stages. Indeed, three of the last four finals have been contested by two members of the established top six: City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
After a three year period in which Birmingham City (2011) and Swansea (2013) both won the competition, and lower-league sides Cardiff and Bradford, the latter then in League Two, both reached the final, the top Premier League clubs have very much reasserted themselves. Chelsea and Man Utd have joined City in lifting the trophy over the course of the last five years.
The winner is most likely to come from within their ranks, and Arsenal might even be a solid outside pick amongst that group given new head coach Unai Emery’s strong record in knockout competitions during his time at Sevilla, but there are still some other top-flight sides who will see the League Cup, again branded the Carabao Cup this season, as a viable route to silverware.
West Ham will be near the top of that list after investing heavily over the summer in a bid to provide new head coach Manuel Pellegrini with the necessary material to establish them as top-six challengers. Pellegrini won the EFL Cup on two occasions during his time in charge of Manchester City and will again hope to put together a good run this year.
Everton and Leicester City are other sides who should be capable of making solid progress. The former are arguably the biggest club never to have lifted the Carabao Cup. Bournemouth reached the quarter-final last year and could match that if things go their way.
The decision to scrap extra-time in all rounds except the final in this year’s competition does potentially open up greater opportunity for defensively minded teams to hold stronger opponents at bay and then seek to win out on penalties. Keeping things tight for 90 minutes is easier than doing so through 120 minutes with tiring legs and minds.
Burnley’s participation in European competition is likely to leave them too stretched to give the League Cup a good go, but a team like Newcastle, with the ever-wily Rafael Benitez at the helm, or even newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers, who held Manchester City through to penalties before losing out in last year’s fourth round, could perform well.
Bristol City flew the flag for the lower leagues by defeating top-flight sides Watford, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Manchester United before losing out relatively closely to Man City, 5-3 on aggregate, in their semi-final. They were the first non-Premier League side in three years to reach the last four, and the first Championship side to do so since 2012.
In truth, it is very difficult for a Championship side to juggle the 46-match schedule of the second tier with a strong run in the EFL League Cup, especially if they have designs on reaching the Premier League and the huge financial bounty that entails. Neither Bristol City last year nor Cardiff or Crystal Palace in 2012 were able to combine a run to the last four with promotion.
A surprise lower-league team could emerge, but the riches of the Premier League are making it harder for such sides to make significant progress in the EFL Cup.