The Carabao Cup Final promises to be an exciting clash of the titans, with both teams hungry for the prize. Although the Carabao Cup, also known as the EFL (English League Football) Cup or simply the League Cup, has never been as sought after or considered as prestigious as the FA Cup or the Premiership title, this year it’s a little different. Both finalist teams have good reason to want to claim the trophy, and we’ll see why in a moment.
Arsenal will face Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 25th February. The winning club will walk away with the cup itself plus £100,000 in prize money. That’s relatively little compared to the £2 million to be had for winning the FA Cup, which is one reason why Premier League clubs have never gone all out to win the League Cup, often using the tournament as a way to try out younger players.
This year though, Man City winning the cup would add to the confidence and status built up by their recent run of Premier League victories, while Arsenal need to take the cup precisely to make up for their recent poor performances and bad luck in the Premiership and FA Cup rounds.
Manchester City are currently still the favourites to win the Carabao Cup, but the odds are changing all the time and live betting will no doubt be charged and intense. Arsenal still stand every chance, and anyone wagering on them will certainly be looking at better odds if the Gunners do take the trophy home. Read on for more information before you decide where to place your bets.
Pep Guardiola’s first season as Man City’s manager didn’t get off to a flying start. A poor run in the Premiership was compounded by losing to Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-finals. This season, things are very different, with City enjoying an unprecedented 18 consecutive wins, setting a new Premier League record, and currently at the top of the Premier League. No doubt beating Arsenal in the Carabao Cup will be a satisfying rebuttal of that FA Cup defeat, should it happen.
Man City entered the tournament in the third round, beating West Bromwich 2-1 before going on to a 0-0 draw against Wolverhampton in October. The fifth round was also a draw, 1-1 against Leicester City, but they decisively defeated Bristol City in both rounds of the semi-final, 2-1 and 2-3 respectively.
Despite their Premiership form, those fourth and fifth-round draws don’t imply decisive progress, and the injury of Leroy Sané, who damaged a ligament in an FA Cup match against Cardiff, means that the skilful winger will be on the bench for the Carabao Cup Final. Surely all eyes will be on midfielder Raheem Sterling, who has been Man City’s top goal scorer in the Premier League this season, but has yet to score in a Carabao Cup game.
Notoriously, Arsène Wenger has never invested much energy in trying to win the League Cup, viewing it as insignificant and the games as a chance to test out young players and new formations for the matches that really matter to him. As we’ve said before, however, this time is different. Not to put too fine a point upon it, the Gunners have had a shocking season, and their surprise 4-0 defeat by Nottingham Forest has put the FA Cup out of their reach. They’re up against some of the strongest teams in the Europa League, so for once the League Cup has to be at the top of Wenger’s priority list.
Like City, Arsenal entered in round three and in their case beat Doncaster Rovers 1-0, then won 2-1 against Norwich City and 1-0 against West Ham. Their first semi-final match against arch-rivals Chelsea was a 0-0 draw, but they beat them 2-1 in the rematch.
Wenger spent heavily on new signings in 2016 and 2017, but he also lost some key men. Alexis Sánchez’s departure to Man United was a particularly heavy blow, and the Emirates Stadium also said goodbye to Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, among others. However, the £56 million signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, one of Europe’s top strikers, certainly counts for something, while Granit Xhaka, Jack Wilshere and Mesut Özil remain a formidable midfield trio in what is still a very strong first-team squad.
On closer examination, the final is clearly going to be a closer-run clash than a cursory glance would suggest. A Man City victory would surprise no one, but Arsenal could very well claim their first League Cup win since 1993 and turn their recent run of misfortune around.