Football Features

The League Cup quarter-finalists ranked from outsider to favourite

By Ben Green

Published: 22:44, 19 December 2021

The League Cup quarter-finals get underway this week.

The capital hosts two mouth-watering London derbies: Tottenham vs West Ham and Brentford vs Chelsea. Elsewhere, Arsenal host League One side Sunderland while Liverpool and Leicester meet at Anfield.

Without reigning champions Manchester City in the contest, we are guaranteed a new title holder. But who are the favourites to usurp Pep Guardiola’s men? Below, you’ll find them ranked by odds from William Hill — just remember you have to be over 18 and Gamble Aware to bet. All odds in this article were accurate at the time of writing (which was 22:00, 19/12/2021).

8. Sunderland (66/1)

Most recent League Cup XI (vs QPR): Burge; Winchester, Alves, Wright, Hume; Neil, Evans, Gooch, O’Nien, Dajaku; Stewart.

The Stadium of Light has become a source of Netflix-produced entertainment that tugged at the heartstrings of football fans across the country (Geordies aside). But now they are starting to find some consistency in the third tier of English football, and a position in the League Cup final eight is not to be sniffed at.

MVP? Alex Pritchard will have an added incentive to perform this week, as the former Tottenham academy graduate returns to north London to face an old foe: Arsenal. Technically superb and a real livewire on his day, the now 28-year-old has shown he is also willing to fight for his side: no Sunderland player has won possession in the attacking third more than Pritchard in League One this season (10).

Possible weakness? Despite being third in League One, Lee Johnson’s men aren’t exactly watertight at the back. They have conceded the most goals of any side in the top eight of League One this season (26). A recently-prolific Arsenal will be licking their lips.

7. Brentford (20/1)

Most recent League Cup XI (vs Stoke): Fernandez; Ajer, Goode, Jorgensen; Roerslev, Ghoddos, Bidstrup, Jensen, Canos; Forss, Toney.

The Premier League newbies are playing like anything but Premier league newbies. Under Thomas Frank, the Bees are devastatingly high-octane and fearless. Already this season they have given last-eight opponents Chelsea a gruelling game, losing out 1-0 in October and restricting the Blues to just one shot on target.

MVP? Christian Norgaard will know that whoever wins the midfield battle here has a great chance of winning the match. The Dane will pit his wits against N’Golo Kante, but he enters this contest having made more tackles than any other Premier League player this season (53) so will certainly be up for the challenge.

Possible weakness? There was much debate that 18-year-old goalkeeper Matthew Cox was set to make his debut against Manchester United, only for that game to be postponed. With David Raya still out, the teenager may be given a chance here, and Chelsea will certainly target him if he’s given the nod.

6. Leicester (8/1)

Most recent League Cup XI (vs Brighton): Ward; Soyuncu, Vestergaard, Bertrand; Daley-Campbell, Dewsbury-Hall, Choudhury, Thomas; Lookman, Barnes, Daka.

The reigning FA Cup holders have had a disappointing season by their standards, but there are one or two signs things may be clicking into gear, and Brendan Rodgers will always have the added motivation of wanting to beat former club Liverpool.

MVP? Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall has been hugely impressive in recent games for the Foxes and bagged in their 3-2 loss to Napoli (his first for Leicester). The 23-year-old has started both League Cup games so far and will be eyeing up more minutes to continue his development.

Possible weakness? Only Crystal Palace (11) have conceded more set-piece goals than Leicester this season in the Premier League (nine). Target the skies Jurgen, target the skies.

5. West Ham (6/1)

Most recent League Cup XI (vs Man City): Areola; Dawson, Diop, Cresswell; Johnson, Soucek, Noble, Masuaku; Vlasic, Lanzini, Yarmolenko.

Are the wheels starting to come off? West Ham have looked volatile, ropey and very vulnerable when they haven’t been playing Liverpool and Chelsea in recent games. Still, they’ve already knocked out both Manchester clubs in this competition and remain ‘massive’ in the eyes of many.

MVP? Alphonse Areola is West Ham’s designated ‘cup’ goalkeeper and he has already kept clean sheets against City and Man Utd, winning a penalty shootout against the former.

Possible weakness? Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna are currently sidelined indefinitely so Antonio Conte will certainly look to put pressure on Craig Dawson and Issa Diop, with Harry Kane no doubt relishing the prospect of facing those two.

4. Tottenham (6/1)

Most recent League Cup XI (vs Burnley): Gollini; Emerson, Romero, Sanchez, Davies; Hojbjerg, Skipp, Gil, Lo Celso, Bergwijn; Kane.

Spurs looked equally brilliant and susceptible against Liverpool recently. Antonio Conte is starting to rub his managerial stardust on the club, but can he win that ever-elusive trophy?

MVP? Harry Kane started against Burnley in the previous round, so he’ll likely start here. The England captain has played West Ham more times than he has against any other opponent in his career, netting 11 goals in 18 games.

Possible weakness? The last time West Ham visited the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium they mounted that epic 3-3 comeback in the last 10 minutes. Davinson Sanchez lost Fabian Balbuena for the Hammers’ first before he scored an own goal. David Moyes may well choose to target him here.

3. Arsenal (7/2)

Most recent League Cup XI (vs Leeds): Leno; Cedric, White, Holding, Kolasinac; Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Pepe, Smith Rowe, Martinelli; Nketiah.

Arsenal are back in the top four and playing some scintillating football. Mikel Arteta will want to keep riding the crest of this wave, and the Gunners face Sunderland in this competition for the first time since a 3-2 reversal back in 2002.

MVP? Gabriel Martinelli is the man on everyone’s lips at the minute. The versatile Brazilian attacker took West Ham apart last week and followed up with a brace against Leeds. He will be itching to keep that run going.

Possible weakness? The Gunners have both registered the most errors leading to goals (four) and errors leading to shots (14) in the Premier League this season.

2. Liverpool (10/3)

Most recent League Cup XI (vs Preston): Adrian; Williams, Matip, Gomez, Tsimikas; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Morton, Jones; Blair, Takumi, Origi.

Jurgen Klopp has won everything available to him as manager of Liverpool, except for a domestic cup. With Man City already out, one might feel now is his best chance to flesh out Anfield’s already-glittering trophy cabinet and further embellish his legacy.

MVP? Take your pick. Divock Origi tends to produce when given a run-out by the German, and the Liverpool cult hero already has two in this competition, netting in each of the previous two rounds against Norwich and Preston.

Possible weakness? Klopp’s propensity to heavily rotate in the League Cup.

1. Chelsea (9/4)

Most recent League Cup XI (vs Southampton): Kepa; James, Chalobah, Sarr; Hudson-Odoi, Kovacic, Saul, Alonso; Ziyech, Barkley, Havertz.

The European champions have needed penalty shootouts to eliminate Aston Villa and Southampton. Still, they are favourites heading into their tie against Brentford, so will feel confident of making the penultimate round.

MVP? Kepa is a boss from 12 yards, having also starred as the club won the Super Cup against Villarreal from a penalty shootout. So Chelsea know they have an edge if it comes to sudden death.

Possible weakness? Equally, Kepa can be susceptible in-match, so Brentford know they’re facing a nervy shot-stopper, and in Ivan Toney they have a player who has won more aerial duels than anyone else in the Premier League this season (78). Get him on Kepa from set-pieces, Frank!

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