There’s a huge list of festive football fixtures over the next two weeks as we head into English football’s notorious Christmas rush. Three Premier League games take place within a week between the 23rd and 30th of December but before that, it’s the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
Arsenal host West Ham while Manchester City play at Leicester in the first two ties on Tuesday night. Wednesday sees Chelsea take on Bournemouth and Manchester United travel to Bristol City. The Red Devils have been paired with the only Championship side left in the competition, but the Robins are flying high in the second tier and will make it an intriguing cup battle.
The Premier League clubs still involved have decisions to make as they prepare for the upcoming run of games, and it would be no surprise to see managers giving certain players a rest in preparation for Christmas fixtures. However, a place in a cup semi-final is the prize for the victors in midweek and that is a big draw for the likes of Leicester, West Ham and Bournemouth.
Bristol City v Manchester United
Bristol City could give Manchester United a scare on Wednesday night and both teams to score is fair odds of -115 with 888Sport.
The Robins are third in the Championship after a fourth straight win over the weekend, and the club will be relishing this cup quarter-final against one of England’s giants. City have only been beaten twice on home ground all season and have only failed to score in three home matches overall. They will make this a tough test for United and it should be compulsive viewing.
Jose Mourinho will surely manage his squad ahead of upcoming Premier League games against Leicester, Burnley and Southampton. Including this quarter-final, it’s four games in ten days so we can expect various fringe players to get on the pitch on Wednesday night. That shouldn’t dent United’s chances too much considering the quality of their squad, but it’s enough to put us off backing them at short odds with a preference for both teams finding the net.
Arsenal v West Ham
The Hammers are a good price to avoid defeat over 90 minutes at Arsenal on Tuesday, at odds of +160 with BetVictor.
Arsene Wenger has often played second-string sides in this competition and he has followed a similar strategy this season so far. The Gunners supremo will also have a home fixture against Liverpool on Friday night on his mind, and that is sure to influence his selection here. Arsenal have an excellent home record this term but they were held to a draw in the last round by Norwich City before going on to win in extra-time, young star Edward Nketiah scoring two late goals to secure the turnaround.
West Ham held Arsenal to a 0-0 draw in the Premier League last week, part of an impressive three-game run which includes victories over Chelsea and Stoke. David Moyes appears to have made some impact at the Hammers, and he might be more likely than his opposite number to play a strong team. A strong defensive base has seen his side keep three consecutive clean sheets and a similar approach could work in Moyes’ favour if Arsenal are without some of their star attackers.
Leicester v Man City
Manchester City are unsurprisingly short odds to win the game so in search of better odds, we’ll back both teams to score at -135 with 888Sport.
In a similar vein, Leicester are more likely to play a strong team in search of a semi-final, while the Citizens could rotate ahead of bigger games to come. The Foxes had been in good form prior to the 3-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace, winning the previous four in a row. This is their best chance of silverware this season and it should be a fierce atmosphere on Tuesday night.
Manchester City are beating all before them at the moment, and even if Pep Guardiola rests players, he has a host of top-class internationals to call on. However, they continue to show their propensity to concede goals, and have only kept one clean sheet in the last seven games.
Chelsea v Bournemouth
Finally, Chelsea are also too short to back to win outright, so we’re taking over 2.5 goals at odds of -172 with 888Sport.
Once again, we must wait to discover what teams take to the pitch, but both managers could be excused for making changes. Chelsea are in the running for the top four, while Bournemouth are perilously close to the relegation zone. The Blues have bounced back to form since defeat at West Ham by beating Huddersfield and Southampton, but Bournemouth are on a run of six without a win and were thumped 4-0 by Liverpool last weekend.
Three of the last four meetings between these two clubs have had more than three goals, and all bar one of the previous fixtures they’ve played in this competition have beaten the over 2.5 goal line.
Bristol City v Manchester United – Both teams to score
Wednesday 20th December, 20:00 GMT
West Ham or Draw – Double Chance
Tuesday 19th December, 19:45 GMT
Leicester v Manchester City – Both teams to score
Tuesday 19th December, 19:45 GMT
Chelsea v Bournemouth – Over 2.5 goals
Wednesday 20th December, 19:45 GMT