FOOTBALL analyst Ben Levene (@benlevene96) dissects Tuesday night’s EFL Cup action and picks out his best bets.
The League Cup has thrown up many an upset over the years. Think League Two Bradford’s run to the final back in 2013, or League One Sheffield United’s semi-final appearance in 2015.
Shocks are no different in the early rounds. Last season 14% of opening round ties saw a lower division side progress – that was down on the year prior which saw over 30%.
So, backing upsets can be profitable – the main issue here is guessing team selection. Over the years, the likes of Mick McCarthy have virtually thrown this competition, whilst Arsene Wenger grew a reputation for fielding ‘the kids’.
Goals have historically flowed, too. Last season 19 of 30 (63%) opening round ties saw Over 2.5 Goals in normal time, the year prior it was 53%, and the year before that 63%.
Scunthorpe v Doncaster | Tuesday 14th August 2018, 19:45
Doncaster Rovers have made a flying start under Grant McCann, winning their opening two games of the season in style, scoring three times in both.
McCann has spoken of maintaining momentum, stating – “I’ll look to play as strong a team as possible, it’s a derby game against one of our big rivals.”
Doncaster travel to an odds-on Scunthorpe. Influential Scunny stars such as Rory McArdle, Josh Morris, and Funso Ojo missed out at the weekend through injury and could all feature here. Add in Olufela Olomola, Lee Novak, Ryan Colclough, and George Thomas – we can see that the Iron possess deep attacking quality.
As already mentioned, Doncaster have scored three goals in each of their league games so far this season. Nick Dawes’ Scunthorpe have also found the net in both, with both their games seeing both teams score.
The numbers suggest that the opening round is usually conducive to goals and this has the potential to be a thrilling clash. Both Teams To Score and Over 3.5 Goals is 11/4 (Bet365), and I’m happy to chance a Glanford Park classic at a big price.
Blackpool v Barnsley | Tuesday 14th August 2018, 19:45
Like Doncaster, Barnsley have soared so far in League One. Daniel Stendel has been keen to implement his aggressive attacking style of play, and this Tuesday the German’s squad players will have a chance to strut their stuff.
Talented attacking trio Cameron McGeehan, George Moncur, and Lloyd Isgrove were all on the bench on Saturday. Striker Victor Adeboyejo was on trial with Chelsea U23’s in the summer and since moving to Oakwell has scored twice in two substitute appearances. He too will likely get minutes from the start.
Managerless Blackpool have limited resources as well all know. They’ll battle hard, but ultimately the 8/5 (Bet365) available around Stendel’s trendsetters is too big to ignore.
Port Vale v Lincoln | Tuesday 14th August 2018, 19:45
Squad depth can often be a key edge in this competition given the EFL fixture congestion. Danny Cowley’s Lincoln have depth rivalled by few others.
Matt Green and Matt Rhead formed a strike-partnership that spearheaded a run to League Two’s play-offs last season and yet neither started at the weekend. The experienced Jason Shackell was also on the bench.
Lincoln have been more than adept at putting together cup runs without compromising league performance over the years. Two campaigns ago they won the National League whilst reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals and last season finished inside the play-offs amidst a run to Wembley in the EFL Trophy.
At this stage last season Cowley fielded a relatively strong line-up in a 2-1 defeat away at Rotherham so back the Imps to progress past Port Vale at 7/4 (Bet365).