The second half of the EFL Cup quarter final draw is played on Wednesday night, with two all-Premier League ties to look forward to. The live TV match, and arguably the game of the night, is at Old Trafford where West Ham visit Manchester United for the second time in three days. The other game sees Arsenal host Southampton at the Emirates, where the strength of Arsene Wenger’s squad will be given a stern examination.
West Ham held United to a 1-1 draw in the Premier League on Sunday, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic cancelling out Diafra Sakho’s early opener. Jose Mourinho was sent to the stands after his frustration got the better of him, and all is still not well with the Red Devils. Despite just about being the better side on Sunday, they failed to build up the overwhelming pressure associated with the best teams at Old Trafford, and are short value to win on Wednesday.
Arsene Wenger’s ‘reserves’ have won EFL Cup games against Nottingham Forest and Reading, but Southampton have been a difficult nut for the Gunners to crack in recent years. Arsenal had failed to beat the Saints in three meeting prior to September’s 2-1 win at the Emirates, but even that required a 94th minute Carzola penalty. However, with the likes of Ramsey, Iwobi, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Perez and Elneny in contention, there is still plenty of Premier League class oozing through the side.
Southampton’s weekend victory over Everton ended a run of three without a win, but they haven’t been successful on the road in six games since beating West Ham 3-0 in September. They are more likely to go with a full-strength team, although influential attacker Tadic is likely to be unavailable.
Manchester United v West Ham
United are naturally a short price whenever they play at Old Trafford, but the Hammers will have gained confidence from the 1-1 on Sunday. Slaven Bilic may be without goal-scorer Sakho after he pulled up injured in the second half of that game, but he can welcome back the defensive prowess of Winston Reid after suspension. Italian flop Simone Zaza may get the nod if Sakho isn’t fit, but former Manchester United youth player Ashley Fletcher will be chomping at the bit after an impressive cameo performance when he came on at the weekend.
Jose Mourinho has his own problems to contend with after midfielders Pogba and Fellaini picked up knocks, but Michael Carrick has returned to training. The former West Ham academy product could return to the starting line up, as could exiled German midfielder Schweinsteiger. Rooney and Mkhitaryan are also in contention for starting berths, after coming off the bench on Sunday.
United have drawn three of the last four at home – Arsenal, Burnley and West Ham – and this competition is far down Mourinho’s priority list at the moment. He played an under-strength side at Northampton in an earlier round, but his hand was forced in the last round against Manchester City. A strong team emerged with a 1-0 victory on that occasion.
West Ham are far from the most reliable proposition, but they’ve only lost once in the last six meetings with United. The Hammers have also drawn the last three at Old Trafford. After a record-breaking season last term, Slaven Bilic’s team are struggling at the foot of the Premier League, but performances have been slowly improving. They’ve now lost just twice in the last eight games, and were a shade unlucky to concede two in the dying moments at Spurs. In that away match, as well as the one at Old Trafford on Sunday, they’ve shown they can compete with the big teams. Realistically, any dreams of European qualification via the league have long been written off, and a good cup run is about as good as the season will get for the Hammers. They’ll be fighting tooth and nail against a Man United side that still looks fragile on confidence, and the value call is West Ham to avoid defeat.
Arsenal v Southampton
It’s 12 years since Arsenal won the Premier League, and the only silverware they have to show for the last ten years are the back-to-back FA Cups they won in 2014 and 2015. They haven’t won this competition since beating Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 in 1993, but that doesn’t come as the biggest surprise considering Wenger’s attitude to the League Cup over the years. They’ve progressed in the Champions League and are in contention for the Premier League, so this will fall down on the list of priorities, but the lure of winning a cup should keep them focused. The names mentioned earlier who may be set to start the game give a good indication of the strength in depth that Arsenal possess this season, and it will still be a quality side that takes to the field.
Claude Puel has done a good job since taking over at the Saints, and 10th place in the league is a good return so far. However, they’ve been much more comfortable at home this season where they’ve garnered a 3-3-1 record from seven matches, while away from home their only win was the 3-0 against a badly out-of-form West Ham. Southampton have been beaten on their travels at Manchester United, Arsenal, and Hull in the Premier League this season, although draws at Manchester City and Leicester represent decent results. They also won 2-1 here in the EFL Cup in 2014, but that was their only victory at Arsenal in 14 attempts dating back to 1998.
This has the makings of a very tight match, but Arsenal arguably have a stronger squad than ever this season and can still field a side of internationals. The Gunners are taken for a narrow win.
West Ham or Draw
Wednesday 30th November, 20.00 GMT
Arsenal to beat Southampton
Wednesday 30th November, 20.00 GMT