The second legs of the EFL Cup semi finals take place on Wednesday and Thursday this week, as Southampton travel to Liverpool and Hull host Manchester United.
The Saints take a slim 1-0 lead with them to Anfield, courtesy of Nathan Redmond’s first leg goal, but it will be a tall order to hold on to that advantage. In their favour is Liverpool’s recent blip, which has seen them win just once in the last six games. That victory was away at Plymouth in the FA Cup, so creates little to shout about, and Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of relegation-threatened Swansea exposed the Reds questionable defending.
Manchester United ground out a forgettable 2-0 victory against Hull in the first leg at Old Trafford, and it will be tough for the Tigers to overturn that result amid a potential player exodus in the transfer window. Jake Livermore has already made a move to West Brom, while Robert Snodgrass was left out of the weekend squad with ‘injury’, although a proposed move to West Ham is expected to be finalised this week.
Liverpool v Southampton
Plenty of punters will jump on the Liverpool bandwagon here, in expectation that Jurgen Klopp’s team will sweep the Saints aside. However, it’s hard to be tooo enthusiastic about backing Liverpool at such short odds and a better bet is both teams to score at -105 with Betfair.
One suspects that the bookies are pricing that market on Southampton’s generally poor away record – they’ve scored just nine goals in eleven Premier League road games – but they are fair value to get on the scoresheet here. Claude Puel has watched his team draw blanks in recent away games at Burnley and Everton, but they notched three at Bournemouth and two at Norwich. They’ve also scored on each of their last three visits to Anfield – recording a draw and a victory in the process – so a visit to Liverpool shouldn’t hold any fears. Three wins in the last four (albeit three home games) should have also boosted confidence.
Even if you disregard the two FA Cup results against Plymouth – which is reasonably done as Klopp played a shadow side – Liverpool are still winless in four matches. The defeat to Saints in the first leg has been compounded by draws with Sunderland and Manchester United, and that home reverse to Swansea. In fairness to the Reds, home form had been superb up until the Swans match – 7 wins and 2 draws from the previous 9 – but they’ve conceded in six of the last ten at Anfield overall.
Cup games under the lights at the famous stadium generate a special atmosphere, and Liverpool are expected to tap into that as they go in search of the goals to turn this tie around. A gung-ho approach may well create a thrilling game, but it will always leave the door open at the back. Liverpool may well go on to win this game, but Southampton have more than enough quality to make life difficult.
Hull v Manchester United
A tough match to call because United are head and shoulders above Hull City, but with a 2-0 lead in their pocket, do not have to press for victory here. With that in mind, a savvy bet might be a punt on draw HT/United FT at +365 with 188Bet.
As stated there is no need for the red Devils to go chasing this game, and Mourinho’s teams are rarely prolific in the goal department. Hull, on the other hand, will have to chase the game and could leave themselves open to late counter attacks.
The Tigers sacked Mike Phelan and brought in Marco Silva recently, and the managerial change has had a positive effect with wins over Swansea (FA Cup) and Bournemouth (Premier league). That may have reignited dreams of top-flight survival, but the transfer comings and goings at Hull do not reflect a club that expects to stay up. Livermore and Snodgrass are key players, and although the latter is yet to leave, it seems to be an inevitability. Impressive midfielder Ryan Mason is also ruled out after suffering a horrific head injury in the defeat at Chelsea on the weekend.
Olympiakos right back Elabdellauoi has been brought in on loan for the remainder of the season, as have Niasse from Everton and Markovic from Liverpool. It would be inspired business if those players could help the Tigers retain their place at the top table, but it smells of a club cashing in on assets and replacing them with short-term loans ahead of the drop.
Jose Mourinho is edging closer to his first piece of Silverware as United manager, and it would be a huge shock if Hull fight back from a two-goal deficit. One wouldn’t expect the Tigers to come out all guns blazing as they could end up shooting themselves in the foot. More likely is a steady approach whereby they set up not to concede first and foremost, and hope to take a chance to work their way back into the game. As the match progresses Hull will have to commit men forward in search of goals, and that’s where United can be devastating on the break. Whichever of his forward players Mourinho chooses, there is plenty of pace in the red Devil’s ranks, and a late goal on the break could kill off the tie as a contest.
Liverpool v Southampton – Both Teams to Score
Wednesday 25th January, 20:00 GMT
Draw HT/Manchester United FT Double Result
Thursday 26th January, 19:45 GMT