NEWCASTLE travel to Nottingham Forest on Wednesday night for a League Cup second round clash live on Sky Sports. David Page (@page_dave) picks out his best bets.
Nottingham Forest v Newcastle | Wednesday 29th August 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Newcastle come into this game under the same cloud that has been present all summer, and while a cup run would no doubt raise the spirit of the Toon Army, Rafa Benitez is unlikely to field a strong team here with a trip to Manchester City awaiting on Saturday.
The Magpies were actually knocked out of this tournament by Wednesday's opponents at this stage last season, and the line-up Benitez fielded that day demonstrates that this is not a priority.
It would be unwise to read too much into last year’s game between the two sides however, as Forest have changed a huge chunk of their playing personnel, and the manager, since then.
The Championship side’s start to the season has been respectable, if unspectacular – they’ve won once and drawn four times from five matches. I expect boss Aitor Karanka to also ring the changes given the pressure on him to achieve a top-six finish in the league this year.
Forest have accumulated some strength in depth this summer but they struggled to get past League Two outfit Bury in the first round a fortnight ago, needing a last minute equaliser to take the game to penalties, then prevailing after a marathon shootout.
While the squad are clearly still trying to gel after a raft of summer signings, Forest have looked dangerous at times, not least in their home match against West Brom. They may have only drawn 1-1 but dominated the ex-Premier League outfit and really ought to have put them to the sword.
As the home side they’ll want to get on the front foot early and despite Benitez’s reputation for making his team defensively sound, Newcastle have kept just three clean sheets in their last 21 away matches in all competitions. An unfamiliar back line is unlikely to help this either. As a result, I fancy the Reds to get on the scoresheet.
While I’m finding it hard to get enthused about Newcastle’s attacking options here, Forest’s defensive woes at the City Ground make for interesting reading. They’ve kept just four clean sheets in their last 20 matches on home turf in all competitions, and are still likely to come up against better strikers than they face week in week out in the Championship.
This is a team that are still learning to play with one another and it might be some time before they achieve anything near the water-tightness that Karanka was associated with at Middlesbrough. With this mind, it would be a surprise if the visitors didn’t find the net.
While the stats point to goals on the menu somewhat, this is still a match between two teams who will surely lack cohesion due to the number of personnel changes, and neither club is soaring high at the moment. With no extra time looming in the EFL Cup this season, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see both teams settle for spot kicks if it’s still level with 20 minutes to go.
The home team’s tendency to draw games only convinces me further that this will end all-square at the full-time whistle and so a play on the draw and Both teams To Score (18/5 BetVictor) appeals.
Nottingham Forest v Newcastle – Draw and Both teams To Score (18/5 BetVictor)