The midweek football programme is dominated by the EFL Cup quarter finals, and there are four tantalising matches in store. On Wednesday night Manchester United and West Ham renew rivalries three days after drawing 1-1 in the Premier League, while Arsenal host Southampton in another top-flight clash. The two remaining Championship sides in the competition – Leeds and Newcastle – play their respective ties against Liverpool and Hull on Tuesday night, and those are the two matches we’re concentrating on here.
Jurgen Klopp reached two finals in his first season with Liverpool but failed to win either, losing last year’s EFL Cup final to Manchester City and the Europa League final to Sevilla. His time so far at Anfield is generally considered to be successful, but bringing silverware to the club is the all-important task. The Reds face Leeds at home on Tuesday and are a warm order, despite a number of injuries. For Garry Monk it’s another chance to prove his own managerial credentials at the top level, and he’s been doing a good job at Elland Road. With Leeds riding high in the play off zone, it’s a one-off game for the second-tier club with nothing to lose.
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez opted to rest several players – including top scorer Dwight Gayle – in the 1-0 loss to Blackburn at the weekend, so he is clearly taking this competition seriously. The bookies have the Magpies as +125 favourites to win the match, but that appears somewhat disrespectful to Hull. The Tigers may be in the Premier League relegation zone, but Mike Phelan has said that they are going to have a crack at this competition now they’ve come this far, and on home ground they shouldn’t be classed as such outsiders.
Liverpool v Leeds
Leeds are the definition of a sleeping giant, but under Garry Monk they’ve slowly improved throughout the season and could be on for a crack at promotion. The former Swansea player and manager will be under no illusions of the size of the task at Anfield, but has already said that his players can go there with no pressure and the freedom to play. In Chris Wood they have the competition’s second leading scorer (behind Daniel Sturridge), and they’ve found the net in 6 of their last 7 games.
Sturridge is likely to be ruled out of Tuesday’s game with a calf injury, but Liverpool are not short of attacking options with Origi a quality replacement. Coutinho and Firminho are both out of the match, but neither may have started anyway, while Mignolet will replace Karius in goal. Liverpool have only failed to score in two of their last seven games – the 0-0 draws with Southampton and Manchester United – but both teams have scored in four of those seven. It’s been a feature of Liverpool’s season to win and concede goals, which is reflective of the attacking style they employ under Klopp.
Expect a good open game with plenty of goal-mouth action, and take the generous price on both teams finding the net.
Hull v Newcastle
On first glance Newcastle look tempting, but any value has long since disappeared. The better bet could be Hull or Draw at -138 with Coral.
Yes Newcastle are having a brilliant season, and prior to the 1-0 defeat to Blackburn at the weekend they were on a run of nine consecutive wins. But we have to remember that they are competing in the Championship with by far the best squad in the division, while Hull are competing at a much higher level. The odds on offer about Newcastle suggest they only have to turn up and win, but it is never going to be that easy.
Mike Phelan surprisingly landed the Hull job after a successful temporary spell, but the rigours of Premier League football are stretching his experience and his squad to the limits. They are only in the relegation zone on goal difference, but a long hard season beckons. This competition has the potential to provide some relief from the league, and having got this far, Phelan is clear that he is taking the cup seriously. He will be boosted by the return of Robertson and Diomande who both appeared as subs against West Brom, and with home advantage they are decent value to at least go to extra time.
Liverpool v Leeds – Both Teams to Score
Tuesday 29th November, 19:45 GMT
Hull or Draw
Tuesday 29th November, 19:45 GMT