FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his thoughts on Tuesday night’s EFL Cup action.
Sheffield United v Leicester | Tuesday 22nd August 2017, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Chris Wilder described his side as “huge underdogs” in his pre-match dealings with the press and also promised to make changes to his team for Tuesday night’s televised League Cup contest with Sheffield United.
Leon Clarke is suspended following his weekend red card and centre-back Richard Stearman picked up an injury in the same Saturday victory over near neighbours Barnsley. George Baldock, John Lundstram, David Brooks and Ched Evans are just three of the faces expected to be given a start here.
The Blades fielded a fully-changed starting XI in the first round when unconvincingly overcoming Walsall 3-2 but with the live television cameras at Bramall Lane, I’d expect Wilder to shy away from wholesale alterations despite clearly playing the tie down to the press.
The United boss – and boyhood fan – watched from the stands as the Blades reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 2014 before qualifying for the last four of this tournament a year later. He reiterated that league progress was the priority but deep down, he also fancies a run at one of the major domestic knockout competitions.
Over the past five seasons, Sheffield United have lost just twice in 17 home cup ties, and although only three came against Premier League opposition, the hosts remained unbeaten in 90 minutes. Meanwhile, the home side have claimed nine successive home wins in all competitions at Bramall Lane and are undefeated here since January.
Visitors Leicester boast a terrific scoring record under Craig Shakespeare but the Foxes look likely to be without Shinji Okazaki and Jamie Vardy whilst injuries are also keeping Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Danny Drinkwater and Vicente Iborra out.
Out-of-favour attackers Demarai Gray, Leonardo Ulloa and Islam Slimani all come into contention are certainly good enough to make their mark but I’m happy to oppose the guests despite their record of winning five of their past six League Cup encounters with lower division opposition.
You have to go back 20 games in this competition for Leicester’s last clean sheet and their overall away record since the start of last term reads a rather poor W4-D6-L18. That sample includes defeat at Millwall in the FA Cup and a draw away to Derby so I’ll take the 5/6 on Sheffield United +0.50 in the Asian Handicap, knowing there’s little else to excite pre-match.
Doncaster v Hull | Tuesday 22nd August 2017, 19:45
Team news can prove vital when attempting to call League Cup ties at this stage in advance but it was clear from Saturday that Hull would be struggling for bodies when they travelled to Doncaster on Tuesday.
Leonid Slutsky’s threadbare squad saw Kevin Stewart and Fraizer Campbell added to an injury list that also includes David Marshall, Moses Odubajo, Evandro, Will Keane, Abel Hernandez and Ryan Mason following the weekend defeat at QPR.
The Tigers host Bolton on Friday so Will Mannion and Dan Batty could debut, while James Weir, Brian Lenihan, Josh Clackstone and Greg Luer may also feature as Slutsky promises to rest his few available frontline players.
Unfortunately, the price has already collapsed here. Doncaster were as big as 5/2 last week – now Darren Ferguson’s charges are available at just 11/10 (Paddy Power) following an unbeaten start to the new season.
Elsewhere, Brighton, Ipswich, Bristol City and Charlton had all confirmed they were ready to rotate their squads heavily ahead of Tuesday night’s action.
Sheffield United v Leicester – Sheffield United +0.50 Asian Handicap (5/6 BetVictor)
Doncaster v Hull – Doncaster to win (11/10 Paddy Power)