The cup competitions typically boil down to a question of motivation, and the EFL Cup certainly falls into this category: for many, it is simply an unwanted distraction.
The other angle to consider is that the four teams left in the competition – Manchester United, Hull City, Southampton and Liverpool – are all one tie and two games from rewarding their loyal supporters with a Wembley day out. Don’t underestimate the romantic pull of such a possibility.
For these two sides in particular a cup final will be feverishly fought for. The impression is that Jose Mourinho is yet to win over the entire Old Trafford fanbase, and so a Wembley showpiece would surely silence his detractors – something the Special One will be acutely aware of.
He has already confirmed that he will be picking a strong side for Tuesday’s first leg, with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia – all rested at the weekend – likely to return to the starting eleven.
Clearly, for Hull City a Wembley final would be a huge fillip given their season from hell thus far, and their players will be giving it both barrels to progress here. No quarter will be given by Mike Phelan’s side, and he will name his strongest possible eleven for both legs of the fixture.
So who will book their place in the first cup final of the campaign?
Manchester United vs Hull City: Match Winner
While we expect a strong United side to take to the pitch on Tuesday night, unfortunately we cannot say the same for Hull City. As it stands they have four first-choice central defensive options sidelined with injury – Michael Dawson, Curtis Davies, Harry Maguire and Alex Bruce, and that really doesn’t bode well.
As mentioned, Mourinho has publicly asserted his intention to play a strong side, and so if this was a standard Premier League encounter we would be backing the hosts with gusto. There is no need to deviate from that notion here.
Referencing the two sides’ league form, we note that United have been excellent at Old Trafford this term (W5 D4 L1), a run that includes three wins on the spin. As for Hull, their away form (W1 D1 L8) speaks for itself.
The Red Devils saw off Reading 4-0 at home in the FA Cup on Saturday, and with Hull’s injury woes mounting we would surmise that they and Reading are probably quite similar in terms of ability. As such, a similar level of tonking is expected.
United are a best price of 1/5 to win this match, a price that is too short for the vast majority of punters, so instead we’ll have to ring some value from the ‘Man Utd Win & Over 2.5 Goals’ market – which has landed in three of their last four starts – at a still measly 8/13 (Betfair).
Manchester United vs Hull City: Side Bets
Leveraging any kind of value here is difficult in a contest that the bookmakers believe will be one-sided, and so investigating the side markets is perhaps the smart bet.
Mourinho has confirmed in a press conference that Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba will start, and while the Special One is notorious for pre-match mind games there’s no reason for him to be pulling our leg here. Back the pair at 4/6 (William Hill) and 6/4 (bet365) respectively to find the net.
We’ve tried our best to find alternative value in tough betting conditions, and while the 4/6 on Man Utd in the Half Time/Full Time market (Coral) ensures we should walk away with profit, backing them to win 3-0 and 4-0 (13/2 and 10/1 with Paddy Power) should at least keep our interest piqued until the final whistle.
Manchester United Win & Over 2.5 Goals (8/13 with Betfair)
Manchester United Half Time/Full Time (4/6 with Coral)
Manchester United to Win 3-0 or 4-0 (13/2 and 10/1 with Paddy Power)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic Anytime Goalscorer (4/6 with William Hill)
Paul Pogba Anytime Goalscorer (6/4 with bet365)