FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his thoughts on Tuesday night’s EFL Cup action.
QPR v Northampton | Tuesday 8th August 2017, 19:45
A dominant first-half display put QPR on the path to a richly-deserved 2-0 triumph over play-off finalists Reading on Saturday. But the R’s are poor value 4/6 (Bet365) favourites on Tuesday night and look well worth opposing.
Ian Holloway’s men were organised in defence, composed in possession and full of energy when closing down the Royals with Jamie Mackie and Conor Washington’s pressing from the front standing out.
Of course, opening weekend results and displays tend to have little bearing on the final day standings but after a rigorous pre-season, it was great to see Holloway’s squad take control of proceedings.
However, Saturday’s score is unlikely to have any impact on this League Cup showdown with the Rangers boss confirming he’ll ring the changes for their midweek cup clash.
Ryan Manning and Ariel Borysiuk are expected to start whilst the likes of Jack Robinson, Matt Smith, Yeni Ngbaoto, Idrissa Sylla and debutant Alex Baptiste could all be given an opportunity in the starting XI. All will consider themselves first team players but the sheer turnover in personnel is hardly a positive.
With widespread changes and a miniscule crowd flocking to Loftus Road, it’s hardly surprising to note Rangers have a shameful record in this competition.
This decade the R’s have been beaten in seven of their 11 League Cup duels whilst six of the past seven teams to eliminate the Londoners have been from the third-tier or below – more than enough reason to believe Northampton could cause an upset.
The Cobblers suffered late agony on the opening day of the League One season, conceding an injury-time winner at Shrewsbury in a 1-0 reverse. For the most part the pair cancelled each other out so Justin Edinburgh was understandably disappointed with the result.
Following Chinese investment in the club over the summer, Town now boast a squad capable of challenging the top-half. It also means the visitors have the tools to rotate in ties such as this with Edinburgh confirming to the local press that he plans to utilise his squad by making several changes.
Six players made their full competitive debuts for Northampton on Saturday whilst more are likely to be handed out at Loftus Road; the likes of Regan Poole, Yaser Kasim and Chris Long are all eyeing their first Northampton starts whilst John-Joe O’Toole, Brendan Moloney, Shuan McWilliams, Sam Foley and Sam Hoskins remain unavailable.
These two teams have met in this competition three times this century and with Northampton progressing twice in those ties – plus QPR’s wretched League Cup record to take into account – it makes sense to find ways to support the Cobblers. I like the 5/6 (BetVictor) available on Town +1 on the Asian Handicap.
Backing the +1 Asian Handicap will see our stake returned should QPR win by a solitary goal. But should the fixture end all-square, or Northampton win by any margin, we’ll make money – the only way in which our stake will be lost is if the hosts triumph by two goals or more.
Luton v Ipswich | Tuesday 8th August 2017, 19:45
Championship sides Bristol City and Aston Villa have both been dumped out of the League Cup at Kenilworth Road at this stage over the past two campaigns and it may pay to back Luton (7/4 William Hill) to complete a hat-trick of upsets on Tuesday night.
Well-fancied for League Two promotion this term, the Hatters destroyed Yeovil 8-2 in their League Two curtain-raiser. Town fired in 20 shots at the Glovers goal with 13 finding the target; Nathan Jones’ men were irresistible in a ruthless show of strength in Bedfordshire.
Jones admitted he’d make changes to his XI for the midweek match – Lawson D’Ath, Danny Hylton and James Justin are the only absentees but the likes of Luke Gambin,, Johnny Mullins, Glen Rea, Jordan Cook, Jack Senior and James Shea could all play a part as Luton shuffle their pack.
Ipswich got their season off to the perfect start with a 1-0 win over Birmingham but victory was marred by the injury to highly-touted teenager Andre Dozzell. And with Mick McCarthy operating with one of the second-tier’s smaller squads, it wouldn’t surprise to see the Blues boss bid to protect his key players by tinkering with his team.
McCarthy will give both Bersant Celina and Martyn Waghorn their first outings in Tractor Boy colours on Tuesday night and although the Ipswich gaffer is aware defeat could quickly kill off any renewed feelgood factor surrounding the club, he’s highly unlikely to play a first XI.
Twelve months ago, Ipswich made seven changes from their opening league game for their defeat at League Two outfit Stevenage in the EFL Cup three days later and the visitors rotten recent cup record leaves a lot to be desired.
The Blues have exited the League Cup at the first hurdle to lower league opposition in five of the last six seasons. And since taking over Portman Road in November 2012, McCarthy has been in charge of 15 knockout competition games – both League and FA – and won just twice.
Stevenage (twice), Crawley, Preston, Portsmouth and Lincoln have all ousted Ipswich as underdogs in that sample and having claimed only five triumphs in their past 26 competitive away days, I’m happy enough opposing the Tractor Boys with Luton available to back at 13/14 (BetVictor) off a scratch 0 Asian handicap start.