The EFL Cup – more familiarly known as the League Cup for many football fans – has long been something of an ugly stepchild of domestic cup competitions.
Lacking the prestige of the FA Cup or the exotic allure of the UEFA Champions League or Europa League, it’s often been a tournament in which the big teams have chosen to blood their young players rather than aim for outright glory.
However, that doesn’t mean that the competition lacks exciting football – quite the opposite, in fact. As the quarter-final fixtures loom on Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th November, we therefore decided to take a look back at how the fourth round matches played out.
The League Cup’s reputation for upsets continues
The Hammers’ move over the summer to the London Stadium from its long-time Boleyn Ground home has proved a tricky one, with Slaven Bilic’s team having struggled to make the unfamiliar setting a fortress – but a 2-1 triumph over Chelsea on 26th October was just the fillip they needed.
Sadly, it was an occasion marred by crowd trouble as police and stewards were forced to intervene in skirmishes between rival fans behind West Ham’s goal towards the end of the match. Nonetheless, the on-pitch action will have pleased the home faithful enough, as Cheikhou Kouyate netted on 11 minutes for a lead that was never surrendered.
As The Telegraph’s match reporter Sam Wallace observed, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte “deserves credit for picking 21-year-old Nathaniel Chalobah for his first senior start and Ola Aina, 20, for just his second.” In any case, it was the so-so performances of senior players – including Willian, Oscar and the returning John Terry – that ultimately let the Italian down.
Anfield’s Klopp era maintains its momentum
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have created some irresistible football as of late, bringing many fans’ minds back to the days of their 2013/14 title challenge under Brendan Rodgers. But with 11 changes made from their 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion the previous weekend, they were rather scrappier in defeating Tottenham by the same scoreline.
Nonetheless, they were certainly the more creative team at Anfield, with Divock Origi especially impressive. However, it was ultimately England striker Daniel Sturridge who scored the two goals that saw the Reds progress, despite a 76th-minute Vincent Janssen penalty for Spurs.
Manchester United gain some revenge over city rivals
Manchester United’s season thus far under new boss Jose Mourinho has not been as trouble-free as many fans would have hoped, with one flashpoint being the 2-1 derby loss to fierce rivals Manchester City in September. On 26th October came the opportunity for revenge, which was taken thanks to Juan Mata’s 54th-minute goal.
It wasn’t quite a glorious triumph, however, as the Red Devils did only just enough against an under-strength City side lacking such talents as David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne. Nonetheless, they get to face West Ham in the last eight.
More misery for Sunderland and David Moyes
While Mourinho was able to enjoy some respite from his recent troubles at Old Trafford, the same was not the case for one of his Manchester United predecessors, David Moyes, who was sent to the stands at St Mary’s Stadium as Southampton’s Sofiane Boufal scored an incredible goal to knock out the Black Cats.
It was the Morocco international’s first start for the Saints since his summer move from Lille, but that didn’t prevent him from delivering a performance that The Guardian’s Ben Fisher described as “full of trickery and guile throughout”.
Even the visitors’ introduction of Jermain Defoe was not enough to bring an equaliser and indeed, Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy was not tested until the 76th-minute mark.
Joy for Arsenal and Newcastle; pain for Norwich City and Preston North End
Elsewhere on Tuesday 25th, Arsenal edged past Reading 2-0 thanks to an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain brace, and Bristol City were downed 2-1 by Hull City, giving the Tigers their second consecutive League Cup quarter-final appearance.
One team that hasn’t seen too many League Cup quarter-finals in recent years is Leeds United, but for only the second time in two decades, they have reached that stage of the competition due to a penalty shootout win over Norwich City, despite the Canaries having twice gone ahead.
Easily the greatest embarrassment, however, was reserved for Preston North End, who were walloped 6-0 by Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle at St James’ Park. Aleksandar Mitrovic and Mohamed Diame each netted twice in front of almost 50,000 fans, the latter a sign of just how anxious the Toon fans are for silverware this season.
Now, it’s time for the last eight...
The quarter-final fixtures see Hull City host Liverpool and Newcastle play Leeds United on Tuesday 29th November, followed the next day by Arsenal versus Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium and Southampton at home to West Ham.
We’ll learn plenty about the potential destination of this year’s trophy from these matches. Furthermore, when you sign up to Profit Accumulator in time for them, you can discover just how lucrative the EFL Cup and other major sporting events can be for your bank balance, even if you have never had anything to do with sports betting before.
With the final set to be held on 26th February 2017, it could yet be just the start of an extremely successful year for one of these teams!