The Carabao Cup, otherwise known as the EFL Cup, resumes this week with the first legs of the two semi-finals. On Wednesday night Chelsea host Arsenal in their fourth meeting of the season after playing twice in the Premier League already and once in the Charity Shield preseason curtain-raiser.
Each of those matches has ended all square (Arsenal won the Charity Shield on penalties) but it might be worth siding with the Blues on this occasion, particularly with home ground advantage. The two sides had mixed fortunes in the other domestic cup over the weekend, Chelsea drew their third round tie 0-0 at Norwich but Arsenal were humiliated in a 4-2 defeat at Nottingham Forest. Both top-flight clubs rested a host of players for those matches but are expected to be near to full-strength for this important semi-final.
Pep Guardiola was spared another highly-charged Manchester derby in the other semi-final after Bristol City’s shock defeat of United in the quarters. The Robins rested several first-teamers for their 3-0 FA Cup third round defeat at Watford over the weekend, clearly keeping this match in mind. Manchester City’s 4-1 win over Burnley on Saturday was arguably the more difficult of this week’s two cup matches and the likes of Silva, Sane and Aguero were all deployed against the Clarets. The Citizens’ are certain to switch playing personnel around for Tuesday night’s game but should still tower head and shoulders above their Championship opposition.
Chelsea v Arsenal
We’re backing Chelsea to come out on top in the first leg on Wednesday night by beating Arsenal at odds of -125 with BetVictor.
The Blues were moments away from beating the Gunners on their own turf last week before Bellerin’s late equaliser made it 2-2. Antonio Conte’s side is on a run of eight games without defeat right now, during which time they’ve kept five clean sheets. Their record at Stamford Bridge is even better. Chelsea have won nine of the last ten in front of their own fans, with Atletico Madrid the only side to prevent them taking all three points after a 1-1 draw in the Champions League.
Arsenal’s record at Stamford Bridge is as poor as Chelsea’s is good. The Gunners have lost on five of their last six visits here, although they did earn a 0-0 draw in the most recent of those back in September. The FA Cup shock at Nottingham Forest brought to an end a run of nine games without defeat, but five of those were draws and Arsenal are struggling to put winning runs together. They’ve lost three and drawn three of the last eight matches on the road and will probably try to keep this tight with the second leg at the Emirates in mind.
Influential defenders Koscielny and Kolasinac both miss out though and that, along with home advantage, may be enough to tilt the match in favour of a near full-strength Chelsea.
Manchester City v Bristol City
The quadruple is still on for the dreamers among Man City fans and it seems unlikely that it will be derailed by Bristol City in this semi-final. The Citizens are -128 with 888Sport to win the first leg to nil and that could be an astute bet.
Pep Guardiola’s sides are not renowned for clean sheets, such is their attacking outlook, but they have managed three in the last five games. Bristol City, facing a real ‘David and Goliath’ tie, are sure to be pegged back for much of the 90 minutes at the Etihad and will aim to stay in the game before the second leg back at Ashton Gate.
This may be the least of Guardiola’s priorities, but his side remains on course for all four trophies this season and are yet to be beaten. It was a strong team that took to the field in the 4-1 FA Cup win over Burnley, so there are sure to be changes, but City’s squad is overwhelmingly strong. They’ve won all but two games at home this season and another victory surely beckons.
Bristol City’s heroics to defeat Manchester United will live long in the memory of fans, but only the most optimistic will be confident of a repeat against City – particularly over two legs. Despite that impressive win, the Robins have slumped to three successive defeats ahead of this match. They were beaten 2-1 by Wolves, 5-0 by Aston Villa, and 3-0 by Watford over the weekend in the FA Cup. It was a scratch side against the Hornets in preparation for this one, which along with a promotion challenge in the Championship, is the clear priority. It will be a backs-to-the-wall performance by Bristol City here, and it’s hard to imagine them venturing into Manchester City territory too much.
Chelsea to beat Arsenal
Wednesday 10th January, 20:00 GMT
Manchester City to win to nil
Tuesday 9th January, 19:45 GMT