Capital One Cup Semi-Final Second Legs Preview
Although not the priority for most clubs ahead of a busy season, the Capital One Cup (or League Cup to traditionalists) still represents an opportunity for silverware which is an elusive commodity in the modern game. It offers players and fans the prospect of a trip to Wembley and, to the winners, progression into next season’s Europa League. That may not sound like much of a carrot to seasoned Champions League participants such as Manchester City, but a trophy is a trophy, and at this semi-final stage, the four teams can almost taste the glory. Here is where we stand entering this week’s second legs.
Liverpool (1) V Stoke City (0), Tuesday 26th January at 19.45 GMT
The Merseysiders take a precious away goal into the second leg on Tuesday night as The Reds seek to reach the final for a twelfth time – no other side in the history of the completion has reached the showpiece more than eight times, and certainly no other side can match the record of eight Liverpool wins, the last of which was secured in 2012. However, the home side will need to improve on their defending on last Saturday’s epic 4-5 win over Norwich City if they are to overcome a Stoke City team who have been out-of-sorts recently, but will be desperate to reach the final for only the third time (the Potters were winners in 1972 and runners-up in 1964). Mark Hughes’ side certainly possess the guile and ability to go to Anfied and win, and in the shape of Marko Arnautovic, Bojan Krkic and Xherdan Shaqiri, possess three potential match winners. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will be desperate to take his charges to a Wembley showpiece after only a matter of months in charge, and his side will be firm favourites to do so, especially considering the advantage they take into the game after the first leg a fortnight ago. Liverpool have run out 0-1 winners in both their visits to the Britannia this season, and have incredibly not lost at Anfield to Tuesday night’s visitors since 1959 when the sides met in the old Second Division (a run of 36 games). The home side could be without Nathanial Clyne, although Jon Flanagan is in line to make his first appearance in over eighteen months, while Stoke will be missing their captain Ryan Shawcross who is out for a prolonged spell after back surgery, and possibly Jon Walters, who is a doubt with a knee injury.
Manchester City (1) V Everton (2), Wednesday 27th January 2016 at 19.45 GMT
Manchester City remain on course for an unprecedented domestic treble, but in order to overcome Everton on Wednesday night, Manuel Pellegrini’s men must come from behind after Romelu Lukaku’s late strike gave The Toffees a deserved lead after the first leg. That the superstars from the Etihad lost away from home is no surprise as their form on their travels this season has been lacklustre to say the least, but it their form at home that will leave the club’s supporters in confident mood ahead of the game, especially in light of the gloom surrounding the visitors. Roberto Martinez’s men have now failed to win any of their last five Premier League matches and find themselves 13 points adrift from a Champions League place – the prospect of cup success may be the only factor keeping the beleaguered Spaniard in a job at this stage, and certainly there have been murmurings of discontent amongst the Everton faithful. These two sides played out a 0-0 draw at the same venue only two weeks ago – an identical result would suit the Merseysiders just fine and take them to the final for only the third time, and the first since 1984. Even more surprisingly, the League Cup has never been claimed by the blue half of Liverpool, a surprising statistic considering the historical pedigree of Everton FC. Manchester City, on the other hand, claimed their third success in 2014 with a comfortable victory over Sunderland, but if they are to reach the final for a fifth time it will be without skipper Vincent Kompany who continues to be hampered by a calf muscle injury. The visitors could well be without midfielders Muhamed Besic , James McCarthy and Kevin Mirallas for this important trip to the Etihad..
To Win Outright
Manchester City 2.75
Stoke City 17.00