I guess it’s finally time to start paying attention to the Carabao Cup (a.k.a. the League Cup).
The semifinals are at our doorstep and we’ve got two exciting pairings to consider. In the first, Manchester City, who are looking invincible at the moment, take on Bristol City, who advanced to the semifinal with a fairy-tale win over Man United. In the second, Arsenal take on Chelsea in a classic London rivalry.
The semifinals are two-game aggregate-goals series. Let’s break down the odds for the first leg. Manchester City are clearly the favorites against Bristol, but just how seriously are they taking the League Cup? And Arsenal are understandably the underdogs against Chelsea, but can the disorganized Gunners pull one off against the reliable Blues? Ladbrokes has the odds and we have the analysis!
Manchester City (-700) vs Bristol City (+1400), Draw (+700)
First leg: Jan. 9, 2018, Etihad Stadium (2:45 PM ET)
Korey Smith’s 93rd-minute winner against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup quarterfinal will be remembered as one of the greatest moments of the season (unless you’re a Man United fan). Bristol City, a club that has never lifted a single major trophy in its history and has spent the last few decades toiling away in the second and third tier, defeated the most successful club in English football to advance to the semifinals of the League Cup.
However, in order to advance to the finals, they’ll have to pull off an even greater upset. This Tuesday, they will travel to Etihad to face Manchester City, the Premier League-leaders and arguably the best side in Europe at the moment.
There’s no doubt that Man City are best club in England right now. With 62 points after just 22 fixtures, City have established a 15-point lead over the field and have all but sewn up the EPL title. They’re currently the favorite to win not just the Premier League, but also the Carabao Cup, the FA Cup, and the Champions League. In other words, they’re the favorite for every trophy available to them.
So how could Bristol City, a club currently struggling to gain promotion to the English top flight, even hope to compete?
If Pep Guardiola chooses to prioritize the League Cup, then it’s lights out for the Robins. Man City have the depth, the tactical acumen, and the star power to completely wipe Bristol City off the field. However, the Citizens are fighting on four fronts and the League Cup is the least of their priorities.
During their quarterfinal match against Leicester City, Guardiola chose to play a handful of young up-and-comers in place of his regular starters. Tied 1-1 after full-time, the match went to penalty kicks, with Man City barely scraping through (4-3). If Guardiola takes the same approach against Bristol City, then there’s at least a chance of an upset.
Picking Bristol City to win at Etihad is too much of a stretch, even at +1400, and picking Man City to win at -700 holds very little value. A draw at +700, however, could prove to be a savvy pick. The Robins are likely to play conservatively on the road and would see a draw as tantamount to a victory.
Pick: Draw (+700), available at Bet365 as of January 3, 2018
Chelsea (-125) vs Arsenal (+320), Draw (+275)
First leg: Jan. 10, 2018, Stamford Bridge (3:00 PM ET)
Arsenal and Chelsea will face each other three times this month, once for a league match (Wed., Jan. 3) and twice for the Carabao Cup semifinal.
We’ll have a better idea of how the two sides stack up after their Premier League clash this week, but for now we can only look to their recent performances. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last six games across all competitions and recently crushed Stoke 5-0 to close out 2017. Meanwhile, Arsenal are unbeaten in their last eight games, though that includes four draws. They were unable to pick up the full three points against relegation-threatened clubs like West Brom, West Ham, and Southampton.
These are stressful times for the Gunners. They’re at serious risk of once again missing out on a top-four finish and the January transfer window could potentially wreak havoc on their starting lineup. Alexis Sanchez looks set to leave and there are rumors swirling around Mesut Ozil.
Despite all of manager Antonio Conte’s complaints, Chelsea are having a pretty good season. A win over Arsenal on Wednesday would see them leapfrog Manchester United into second place in the Premier League table; they’re through to the round of 16 in the Champions League (where they’ll face Barca); and they’re among the favorites to win the League and FA Cup.
Arsenal at +320 is an enticing offer, but the club is in a state of disarray right now. Both Sanchez and Ozil could be gone by the time the semifinal rolls around, which would leave Wenger with very few options. Chelsea at -125 is the safe and sensible pick in this match-up. Unlike with Man City, the League Cup should remain a priority for the Blues. The EPL title is out of reach and, while still alive in the Champions League, beating Barcelona will be a massive undertaking. This may be their best chance for any hardware this season.
Pick: Chelsea (-125), available at Bet365 as of January 3, 2018