One leg done, one more to go. The 2018 Carabao Cup is pretty low on the English football food chain, but there are usually some nice matchups toward the end. The semifinal clash between Chelsea and Arsenal was expected to be a doozy, especially after their exciting 2-2 draw earlier this month, but the first leg was a rather lackadaisical affair that ended in a scoreless draw. In the other semi, Bristol City is playing David to Manchester City’s Goliath, and the little guy almost pulled a shocker, but the giants had to ruin it with a last-minute winner.
Will the second legs prove more interesting? If you have money on them, they will, and here are the best value bets for next week’s games, with odds from Bet365.
Bristol City (+900) vs Manchester City (-400), Draw (+500)
Date: Tuesday, January 23rd
A penalty by Bobby Reid put Bristol City in the lead against Manchester City and the Robins ended the first half of the first leg with a hint of optimism. But, as mentioned, the Championship side couldn’t quite manage another upset over a second Manchester-based super-club. Kevin De Bruyne equalized in the 55th minute, and Sergio Aguero scored the winner in the dying moments of added time. Like we’ve seen so many times this season, the Citizens found a way to win.
Pep Guardiola left Aguero, his star striker, on the bench to start the match, along with regular starters Fabian Delph and Kyle Walker. He played a handful of players in unfamiliar positions, especially on defense. If this had been a Premier League match, Guardiola would have taken such risks.
With a win already in their back pocket, City have even less to worry about heading into the second leg. The League Cup is by far the least important of the four competitions available to them, and Guardiola’s starting lineup on Tuesday will probably reflect that.
Bristol City were inches away from a draw at Etihad and they’ll come out fighting tooth-and-nail in front of their home crowd at Ashton Gate. This is hardly a must-win for Man City, so like last time, I’m going to pick a draw. There’s very little to be made from picking Man City at -400, and picking a second-division side to beat the Premier League-leaders is a bridge too far.
Pick: Draw (+500)
Arsenal (+175) vs Chelsea (+150), Draw (+240)
Date: Wednesday, January 24th
The second leg between Chelsea and Arsenal will be the third time the teams have met this month. The Gunners will play host this time, welcoming their London neighbors to the Emirates.
Arsenal were lucky to escape with a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge in the first leg. Chelsea had ample chances to open the scoring, firing 21 shots at goal but only landing six on target. Victor Moses and Álvaro Morata were both denied by keeper David Ospina, and Cesc Fàbregas squandered a header in front of an open net. Despite being the better team on the day, the Blues had to settle for yet another disappointing draw, a result that has been all too common this year. That result followed on the heels of a sloppy goalless draw against Norwich City in the FA Cup.
A 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge isn’t a terrible result for Arsene Wenger, but the Arsenal manager nonetheless came under fire for having Alexis Sanchez on the bench, only subbing him in late (66th minute). Sanchez’ absence from the starting lineup fueled speculation about his future with the club. Is his transfer to Manchester City a done deal? If so, what is Wenger hoping to achieve by sidelining him?
When questioned over his starting lineup, Wenger simply replied, “You cannot explain every decision.”
It’s certainly true that Wenger’s decisions are becoming harder and harder to explain. Many Arsenal fans are ready to cut the longtime manager loose, and chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing” were directed at Wenger during the game by his own supporters.
Chelsea have drawn their last three fixtures across all competitions and are not at their best at the moment. Morata, their top goalscorer, is one of the best players in England on a good day, and woefully sloppy on a bad one. Lately, he’s had mostly bad days. That’s nothing compared to Arsenal’s problems, though. The Gunners recently lost an FA Cup match to Nottingham Forest and are currently sixth in the Premier League. With all the transfer turmoil at the Emirates right now, it’s hard to make the case for Wenger’s side. Chelsea are the better and more reliable squad, and better value even as an away favorite.
Pick: Chelsea (+150)