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Four teams are left to battle it out for a place in this season’s Carabao Cup final. The holders Manchester City travel to their neighbours Manchester United in the first leg of their semi-final on Tuesday night before Leicester and Aston Villa meet at the King Power Stadium 24 hours later. All four teams will hope to have an advantage into the second legs at the end of the month, but which teams will? Charlie Mullan previews both first legs taking place this week.
Manchester United (7/2) v Manchester City (5/8)
After reaching the last four of the Carabao Cup, both Manchester clubs will be doing all they can to win this trophy. The Carabao Cup might not have been top of their wish list when the season began in August, but with their Premier League looking set to dock in Liverpool for the first time ever, the League Cup suddenly has more of an appeal to it.
Between them, these two sides have won the last four finals with City winning in 2016, 2018 and 2019 while United lifted the trophy in 2017. It’s not the trophy the fans want, but for the managers, winning at Wembley on March 1 will mean a lot. For City boss Pep Guardiola, it will be another major honour to add to his impressive list of successes which currently stands at 26 during his spells at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City. As for his counterpart at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could do with winning the Carabao Cup to help him land the United job for a bit longer. It would also silence his critics which includes Robin van Persie who criticised the Norwegian for his demeanour in an interview after United lost 2-0 at Arsenal on New Year’s Day.
It was not the start to 2020 United would have wished for after winning back-to-back games against Newcastle and Burnley. However, United are fifth in the Premier League, but they are 13 points behind City who look set to relinquish their grip on the Premier League after winning it two seasons in a row. The gap between City and Liverpool currently stands at 14 points which puts greater significance on the remaining competitions City are still involved in.
City go into this first leg in better form. However, United won the first derby of the season when they went to the Etihad and won 2-1 with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial scoring in the first half for the Red Devils before Nicolas Otamendi scored a consolation goal for City five minutes from time. It was the fourth time in the last five meetings in which there were goals for both City and United and in those four derbies there were three or more goals scored in each of them. City have won on their last three trips to Old Trafford in the league but United won the last League Cup tie held at the Theatre of Dreams when Juan Mata scored the only goal of the game in October 2016.
Seven of the last eight games at Old Trafford have seen a minimum of three total goals scored and with both teams expecting to field strong teams to ensure they get to Wembley, there should be plenty of attacking talent on display to ensure over 2.5 total goals lands in this tie. United are 9/2 to progress to the final after both legs while City, who are looking to win the League Cup for the third successive season, are 1/8 to reach their fifth final in seven seasons.
City striker Sergio Aguero leads the first scorer market at 3/1 with his team-mate Gabriel Jesus second on the list at 16/5. For United, Rashford is 4/1 to open the scoring with Martial, who has scored in his last two starts against City, 5/1 to get on the scoresheet first. With a place at Wembley at stake, expect both United and City to make this an entertaining and open game.
Leicester (20/59) v Aston Villa (27/4)
Between them, Aston Villa (5) and Leicester (3) have won the League Cup a total eight times. Villa were the first team to have their name engraved on the trophy when they won the first ever final back in 1961 when they beat Rotherham 3-2 after the two-legged final. Leicester’s first win followed three seasons later when they beat Stoke. It’s Leicester who will start this semi-final as strong favourites given the position of both sides in the Premier League.
The Foxes are Liverpool’s nearest challengers but the gap of 13 points looks too much to pull back between now and the end of the season especially as the Reds have a game in hand on the chasing pack. Villa are currently one point and one place above the relegation zone and if they can stay out of the bottom three come the end of the season, then the campaign will be seen as a success on their return to the top flight.
This cup run has been a bonus for Dean Smith’s men but they will not want to bow out of the competition at this stage. Goals have not been in short supply in the ties both Leicester and Villa have played to get to this stage. Villa started out by winning 6-1 at Crewe before beating Brighton 3-1 on the south coast. At Villa Park they then beat Wolves 2-1 before hammering a youthful Liverpool side 5-0 in the quarter-finals.
Leicester’s path began with a 1-1 draw at Newcastle before beating Luton 4-0 at Kenilworth Road. In the fourth round, the Foxes almost blew a 2-0 lead against Everton who scored twice in the final 20 minutes to take the tie into penalties before Leicester advanced. Five of Leicester’s last six league and cup games have seen over 2.5 totals goals scored including their 3-0 league win at Newcastle on New Year’s Day. Meanwhile, 10 of Villa’s last 11 games away from Villa Park have seen three or more goals netted including their 2-1 defeat at Fulham on Saturday that saw them knocked out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle.
James Maddison has scored in three of Leicester’s four ties to reach the semi-finals and he is 5/1 to score the first goal in this tie. Villa midfielder Jack Grealish has scored in both Carabao Cup ties he has played this season and he is 17/2 to score the first goal at the King Power Stadium. When these two sides meet, they usually score against each other. Five of the last six meetings have seen BTTS land including the league meeting on December 8 when the Foxes won 4-1 at Villa Park as Leicester’s resurgence under Brendan Rodgers continues. Victory in the Carabao Cup could be the first of many trophies for the Foxes but Villa will have their say in who progresses to the final.
Both Man United and Man City to score @ 5/7
Over 2.5 goals between Leicester and Aston Villa @ 10/17
Both Man City and Leicester to win @ 2/1