Capital One Cup: Quarter Final Preview

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.

David Silva could start for the first time in two months.
David Silva could start for the first time in two months.

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.

Michael Dawson is out for Hull. Will his experience be missed in the heart of their defence?
Michael Dawson is out for Hull. Will his experience be missed in the heart of their defence?

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.

Middlesbrough beat Manchester United on penalties to reach tonight's quarter final tie.
Middlesbrough beat Manchester United on penalties to reach tonight’s quarter final tie.

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.

Ross Barkley has been in impressive form for Everton this season. Could he help the Merseysiders win the cup this season?
Ross Barkley has been in impressive form for Everton this season. Could he help the Merseysiders win the cup this season?

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.

Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross was dismissed at the weekend against Sunderland.
Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross was dismissed at the weekend against Sunderland.

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.

Sheffield Wednesday outclassed Arsenal in the last round of the Capital One cup.
Sheffield Wednesday outclassed Arsenal in the last round of the Capital One cup.

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.

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Predicted Premier League positions for this season.

We take a look at what I believe the Premier League table will look like at the end of the 2015/2016 season including my predictions on which teams will win the two English domestic trophies during the course of the season as well.

1st – Chelsea
2nd –Arsenal
3rd – Manchester City
4th – Manchester United
5th – Liverpool
6th – Tottenham
7th – Southampton
8th – Everton
9th – Crystal Palace
10th – Stoke
11th – Swansea
12th – West Ham
13th – Newcastle
14th – Aston Villa
15th – West Bromwich Albion
16th – Bournemouth
17th – Sunderland
18th – Watford
19th – Leicester City
20th – Norwich

Capital One Cup winners – Liverpool
FA Cup winners – Manchester United

Can Arsenal be title contenders next season?

Three key signings that Arsene Wenger has to make this summer.

Ever since the unforgettable season of the ‘Invincibles’ in the Premier League campaign of 2003-2004 Arsenal have somewhat struggled to regain the golden years of football the North London club once had. An eight year barren run in the form of trophies was only halted last season with an extra-time win over Hull in the FA Cup final and since then Arsenal have improved but have not fully challenged for the title this time around once again. This season there have been many positives however and key players that have stood up to the plate for the London based team. Alexis Sanchez has particularly impressed since joining from Barcelona, netting 24 goals in 49 games, Olivier Giroud has had his best season for Arsenal arguably scoring 18 in 33 appearances and other players such as Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck in particular have played consistently well for Arsenal especially in the second half of the season. This coupled with the experience of players such as Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky with the bright future and youth of the club performing well in the form of Hector Bellerin, whom has been outstanding this year for his young age, among other youngsters make for good reading for Arsenal fans everywhere.

Arsenal need a strong, ball playing central defensive midfielder who can shield the back four but who can also fit in with the teams passing set up and tactics. Certainly Francis Coquelin has been a solid player for Wenger this season when asked to play in this role; however he lacks the passing ability to back up his powerful presence in the heart of midfield. It can be said that the club have never been able to replace that man Patrick Vieira since his departure in 2005 as newer signings such as Alex Song failed to shine as brightly. There is one player currently in the Barclays Premier League whom could be the signing that Arsenal fans desire, Morgan Schneiderlin. The Southampton midfielder has long been linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium after enjoying another successful campaign at the South coast club despite been ruled out for the rest of the season from the 25th April. Although linked with rival club Tottenham, Arsenal is likely to be Schneiderlins preferred destination as the midfielder has stated a desire to play in the Champions League consistently, something Arsenal can offer. It is expected that in order to sign the French international Wenger will have to part with around £25 million as stated by various sources, http://goo.gl/xPiKdo.

Schneiderlin could make the move to Arsenal in the summer.
Schneiderlin could make the move to Arsenal in the summer.

Wenger needs to address the problem he has in net at the London club. Wojciech Szczesny has struggled massively this year as his replacement, David Ospina, has put in a better level of performance with the Polish stopper been linked to a summer move to Southampton. Reports suggest that Chelsea back up goalkeeper Petr Cech, who has made 332 appearances for the Blues in his career, could make the move across the capital for a fee expected to be around £10 million. Manchester United and PSG are both also interested in the Czech international. Asmir Begovic could further be a transfer target for the North London club.

Could Petr Cech be making the move across London?
Could Petr Cech be making the move across London?

Despite Olivier Giroud having a good goal scoring campaign for the Gunners and Alexis Sanchez chipping in a healthy supply of goals during the course of the season, some would argue that the club still need a prolific talisman to compete with the likes of the Manchester clubs and rivals Chelsea. Arsenal have long been linked with a move for Karim Benzema however the French international seems settled at Real Madrid so Wenger may instead turn towards a transfer for Napoli star Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine international has been in fine form this season for the Italian club scoring an impressive 23 goals in 49 appearances however the money needed to complete a transfer here could prove to be a stumbling block for Arsene Wenger and the North London club. Another possible target could be Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon but he too would fetch a reasonable sum of money.

Gonzalo Higuain has hit form this season at Napoli.
Gonzalo Higuain has hit form this season at Napoli.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger will make youthful signings as usual during the summer window too with The Metro already reporting that Arsenal have signed French 16-year-old Yassin Fortune from French side RC Lens for around the £3 million mark, http://goo.gl/B9kZPT. The talented young midfielder had attracted interest from other major European clubs including Manchester United, as he is considered to be a star for the future.