Tonight see’s the return of this years Capital One Cup campaign with three of the four quarter final matches kicking off at 19:45. The three matches in the competition tonight see three in-form Championship sides face tough tasks in playing Manchester City, Everton and Stoke respectively with Southampton taking on Liverpool at St Mary’s Stadium on Wednesday night.
Although nothing is certain in cup competitions in England as upsets are becoming common place in the various different tournaments that are played out throughout the course of the season, I can only envisage three wins for the Premier League sides in tonight’s showdowns.
MANCHESTER CITY VS HULL CITY
In positive news for fans of the Manchester outfit, Manchester City playmaker David Silva could make his first start in nearly two months in the League Cup quarter-final against Hull. The Spaniard came on as a late substitute in City’s last outing against Southampton in the Premier League last Saturday.
As for their opposition, Hull sit fourth in the Championship after a very strong start to the season in which Steve Bruce’s side have conceded the fewest goals, alongside Derby County, in the league. Despite this, the Tigers will be without experienced centre back Michael Dawson who is struggling to overcome a hamstring injury.
Manchester City boss Pellegrini: “Maybe for teams that are out of some competitions – the Champions League or the Capital One Cup – it is easier to play in the Premier League. But we always want to continue in all the competitions.”
Hull boss Steve Bruce: “We have got to have the belief that we can go and take them on. Last year in the Premier League we caused them a few problems. Up until Friday we hadn’t been beaten for four months. We’ve had a really consistent run – we’ve only lost three out of 22 games, and so we can feel a bit confident.”
Although I fully expect Hull to play a tough game and make it difficult for the Premier League leaders, Manchester City should overcome the Championship outfit at the Etihad Stadium tonight. Manuel Pellegrini will recognise that with the other ‘bigger’ teams already out of the tournament, the opportunity presents itself here for Manchester City to take the first piece of silverware on offer this season.
MIDDLESBROUGH VS EVERTON
Aitor Karanka has a full-strength Boro squad to choose from after their 2-0 win over Huddersfield on Saturday. Striker Cristhian Stuani could make his first start since he recovered from an injury sustained on international duty. Middlesbrough are currently second placed in the Championship this season and are one of the free scoring teams in the second tier of English football. The side from the North-East also beat Manchester United at Old Trafford in the last sixteen round of the competition and will be confident after their success against the Red Devils.
Roberto Martinez will give James McCarthy (groin) and Gareth Barry (shin) late fitness checks ahead of the League Cup quarter-final against Middlesbrough. The Toffees boss has also confirmed keeper Joel Robles will start in goal.
Middlesbrough boss Karanka, whose side have beaten Manchester City and Manchester United in cup competitions in the last two seasons: “That can be our biggest problem – to think that because we beat Manchester City and Manchester United and played well against Liverpool and Arsenal, the game will be easy. The reason we did well against those teams is that we worked hard for 90 minutes or more. Just because we are close to the top of the table and we beat Manchester United in the last round and we’re playing at home and will be feeling the atmosphere, to be over-confident would be a big mistake.”
Everton manager Roberto Martinez: “In this competition I don’t think divisional status gives you a benefit. You need to be ready for the game with a clear understanding of how to perform. Clearly the mentality in our camp is to be ready – we can’t not be ready after the feeling at the weekend [drew 3-3 at Bournemouth].”
Along a similar vein to Manchester City vs Hull City, I think Middlesbrough will play well against their Premier League opposition but I fully expect Everton’s class to shine through and win the game for Roberto Martinez and the teams travelling supporters. Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley are in great form for the Merseyside club and if they feature in the match, I can only see an away win.
STOKE CITY VS SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY
Stoke City will be without skipper Ryan Shawcross for the League Cup quarter-final visit of Sheffield Wednesday after he was dismissed in his sides loss to Sunderland last weekend. Mark Hughes will also be without goalkeeper Shay Given (knee) and centre back Marc Muniesa (hamstring) for this Capital One cup tie.
Sheffield Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvalhal has only one injury to contend with as the Yorkshire sides manager is without key midfielder Barry Bannan (knee) for the trip to the Potteries who has been in great form this season for the Owls.
Stoke boss Mark Hughes: “We won’t underestimate Sheffield Wednesday in any way, shape or form. If you look at their progression in the competition they have beaten two Premier League sides already. We’re at home and when the draw was made if we’re honest enough we can say they were one of the teams we wanted to have. You can’t argue about that. If we’re going to progress it should be in our favour.”
Sheffield Wednesday head coach Carvalhal: “It will be cold and there will be rain probably. It’s not a good day to go to the football. There will be 4,000 fans in the rain and cold and they pay for a ticket to see us play. This means we must play to them. It happened at Blackburn on Saturday and it will happen again. We must play to all the fans. We will give 300%, give everything on the pitch and we will do that.”
In my opinion this will be the closest tie of the night in the Capital One cup as Sheffield Wednesday have already dumped Newcastle and Arsenal out of the competition en route to the quarter final stage this season. However much like the other two encounters tonight I think that the Premier League side will have a narrow advantage and expect Stoke City’s Premier League class to shine through on the night.