EFL Cup – Back City to stroll into the fourth round

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TUESDAY sees a batch of third round League Cup games taking place across the country. Tom Love (@TomLove_18) shares his favourite fancies from the coupon.

Oxford v Manchester City | Tuesday 25th September 2018, 19:45

This looks like an enviable task for League One strugglers Oxford. Not only do they lie 23rd in the standings, they’ve also recorded a -10 goal difference and their defence hasn’t settled as a unit so far.

Manchester City disposed of Cardiff at the weekend with consummate ease, however Pep Guardiola is likely to ring the changes here. Aleksander Zinchenko, Brahim Diaz, Phil Foden and Danilo look like they’ll all come in. Saturday’s super sub Riyad Mahrez could also start for the Citizens after making most of his appearances from the bench.

City are recording similar xG stats to their actual results, so they’re not getting fortunate; they’re creating chances at will and that should continue at the Kassam Stadium.

Pep’s charges are as short as 1/12 to win in places, but they’re slight odds-on (13/15 Sportingbet) to Win Both Halves. I’d expect them to cruise through to the fourth round.

Preston v Middlesbrough | Tuesday 25th September 2018, 19:45

It’s an all-Championship affair at Deepdale on Tuesday night.

Tony Pulis’ Middlesborough are in town, and I think they’ve been slightly underrated in the betting markets. It’s true that Boro have not being free-scoring this season but they’ve still achieved a +8 goal difference due to their rock-solid backline. The Teessiders have conceded just three goals in the league, and two of those came in the season opener at Millwall.

Even if Pulis shakes up the starting XI they still have immense defensive options. If the first choice centre-half pairing of Daniel Ayala and Aden Flint drop out then Danny Batth and Dael Fry can slot in. Sam McQueen can come in for George Friend and Marcus Tavernier for Ryan Shotton at full back.

Preston, on the other hand, have been surprisingly shoddy at the back. North End have conceded three goals in each of their last three, including a game at home against goal-shy Reading.

Alex Neil’s men have been superb in the last couple of seasons but it’s fair to say they’ve overachieved with a squad of players brought in on the cheap.

Fans of the Lilywhites were frustrated that money made from the sales of Jordan Hugill and full back Greg Cunningham was not reinvested into the transfer kitty this summer, and the lack of quality in depth is now starting to show.

I’m not sure how Preston can be favouritism in the 1X2 market given their plight. Boro will try to keep it tight at the back, as they always do, but they should get chances here against a favourable opposition backline.

We can back the Teesside outfit with a scratch start on the Asian Handicap line at a handsome 101/100 with Bet365. This bet works effectively the same as the Draw No Bet market – we get an odds-against pay-out should the visitors win in 90 minutes and if the game ends all square our stakes are returned.

Arsenal v Brentford | Wednesday 26th September 2018, 19:45

Brentford are a very interesting team from a performance data angle, and they have been for a few seasons now. The Bees have been buzzing in the final third but failing to sting as much as they should.

Since Matthew Benham took control of the ownership at Griffin Park, his club have used advanced data analytics in order to compete. Identifying players from different leagues and nations, such as Neal Maupay from Saint-Etienne, Kamohelo Mokotjo from Twente, and current star creator Said Benrahma who spent last season at Ligue 2 club Chateauroux.

Brentford don’t have the financial muscle to mix it with the big Championship clubs but their commitment to extensive scouting is proving profitable with a number of names being sold on for big money in the past few years. This is all in pursuit of becoming a self-sustainable club; the operation has so far been hugely fruitful.

Performances on the pitch continue to show that the club is on an upward trajectory. Brentford lead the Championship on a majority of data metrics. Dean Smith’s men have fired in comfortably the most shots in the box this season and rarely give up any great chances. I fancy their prospects of giving Arsenal a good run for their money.

The Gunners have hit their stride in the Premier League, winning their last five in a row in all competitions. Unai Emery’s main focuses will be the league and the Europa League though, especially with his previous success in the latter competition.

Emery could well rotate here with the majority of those who played against Vorskla Poltava coming back into the fold. They ended up conceding twice in that game due to complacency and that give me hope that Brentford can bag at the Emirates.

I fancy goals here but Over 2.5 Goals is short enough at 4/11 but we can boost that to 20/23 by chucking in the caveat that Brentford get at least one of those goals and that looks a good angle. I couldn’t put anyone off a poke at Brentford to win at a bulbous 17/2 either.

Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (20/23 Boylesports) is my preferred play, mind.

Best Bets

Oxford v Manchester City – Manchester City to win both halves (13/15 Sportingbet)

Preston v Middlesbrough – Middlesbrough +0 Asian Handicap (101/100 Bet365)

Arsenal v Brentford – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (20/23 Boylesports)

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