MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) highlights the EFL Cup value from Wednesday night’s second round games.
Accrington v Burnley | Wednesday 19.45 | Sky Sports 1
Just eight miles separates the Lancashire towns of Accrington and Burnley but in footballing terms these clubs are poles apart. On Wednesday night the two teams meet for the very first time with a place in the third round of the EFL Cup up for grabs at the Crown Ground.
Burnley take to the road having picked up their first Premier League points of 2016/17 on Saturday with a defensive masterclass against Liverpool. The Clarets enjoyed just 19% and managed a mere two shots on goal but still saw off the Reds 2-0 at Turf Moor.
Sean Dyche’s men had opened their account with a disappointing home defeat to Swansea and whilst the gravely-toned boss may see the League Cup as a distraction with Premier League survival their ultimate goal, the visitors are understandably chalked up as 3/4 (William Hill) favourites.
However, Burnley have failed to score in their past three games in this competition – losing on each occasion – and may chose to rest and rotate a small squad in preparation for Saturday’s trip to Chelsea.
The Clarets don’t have a huge amount of depth in the ranks and although strikers Andre Gray and Sam Vokes have started their seasons superbly, neither look likely to play a part from the start here.
Dyche made only four changes in Burnley’s 2015/16 outing against League One Port Vale 12 months ago but still saw his charges exit with a whimper, losing 1-0. So a repeat scenario shouldn’t be ruled out in what’s expected to be a full-blooded encounter.
Nevertheless, Accrington have won just once in their last eight EFL Cup matches and have never beaten Premier League opposition (W0-D1-L3) in any cup competition in their current guise.
Stanley have never progressed past the second round in League Cup history and have only picked up a solitary success from their first five fixtures. Boss John Coleman has blasted their attacking and defensive displays in the past seven days and the hosts are struggling to live up to last year’s achievements following the loss of key players over the summer.
Accy frustrated Hull with a 0-0 draw before ending 2-2 after extra-time and ultimately losing on penalties last term and did take Bradford all the way earlier this campaign, emerging on top after a dramatic shootout. But the Bantams won the shot count 27-12 that day so perhaps lady luck was smiling on Coleman.
The 9/2 (Bet365) a home win may appeal to some but I’m happier heading towards the Over/Under Goals markets with Under 2.5 Goals (19/20 Marathon) banking in seven of Burnley’s last nine fixtures as well as three of the hosts’ past four.
Morecambe v Bournemouth | Wednesday 19.45
Morecambe beat Bournemouth 5-0 the last time they welcomed the Cherries to the Globe Arena in 2009 but the boot could be on the other foot when the two the two teams go head-to-head here on Wednesday.
The Shrimps sit proudly atop of League Two having picked up 10 points from a possible 12. Jim Bentley’s boys are renowned fast starters and their record across the first five games across the last five seasons now stands at W17-D9-L3. Remarkable, eh?
But football can be a strange sport at times and results certainly don’t tell the full story here. The fact is, Morecambe have been second-best in all four of their fixtures and the Shrimps’ performance data rates the hosts as the worst League Two team.
The pre-season favourites for relegation have lost the shout count in all four of their matches by a cumulative 39-84. To put that into perspective, only five clubs have fired in fewer attempts on-goal whilst no team comes close to conceding as many shots.
In fact, Stevenage are the second-worst with 65 shots faced – that’s 19 fewer and we’re only 360 minutes into 2016/17!
Unsurprisingly, Morecambe return the lowest total shots ratio (31.71%) figure – their share of the total match shots – and a 5-4 triumph against an understrength Rotherham in the previous round only increases my doubts surrounding the Lancashire outfit’s recent results.
The hosts have faced Premier League opposition twice before in this competition and lost both games by a 2-0 scoreline at Sunderland in 2012 and at home to Newcastle in 2013 and a similar story could incur against Bournemouth.
Eddie Howe’s troops reached the quarter-finals of the League Cup in 2015 – their best ever run in the competition – and whilst the Cherries will heavily rotate, I’d still expect the south-coast side to put on a decent show. After all, Bournemouth’s B-team is just as good as their first XI.
Lewis Grabban, Benik Afobe and Max Gradel can all expect to play here and backing Bournemouth to beat the -1.5 Asian Handicap at 19/17 (888) makes most appeal. The Premier League side’s second string have more than enough quality to put the Shrimps to the sword.