Today’s draw for the English Football League Cup (also referred to as the Carabao Cup) quarter-finals has thrown up the interesting prospect of the last four being entirely the domain of the big North-west clubs of Merseyside and Manchester.
It’s never happened before in the previous 59 editions of the competition, but with holders Manchester City drawn away to third tier side Oxford United, a past winner of the cup, and Manchester United at home to lowest ranked side left in the competition Colchester United, the passage looks relatively straightforward for the Manchester pair.
The ride looks a little more tricky for the Merseyside clubs, with Liverpool, who defeated Arsenal 5-4 on penalties after a dramatic, error-ridden 5-5 draw at Anfield, away to Aston Villa, and Everton at home to in-form, Leicester City. Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers has never won at Goodison Park in four visits as boss of Liverpool, and one with previous club, Swansea City.
Leicester however, may be slight favourites when the games come around on December 16, but home advantage could be telling for Everton.
The December 16 date will play havoc with the scheduling of the semi-finals, or at least one of them. Liverpool are due in Doha for a game in the Club World Cup just two days later. The Football League and Liverpool are currently in talks, attempting to reach an acceptable alternative date.
Should a date not become available, they may have to scratch from the competition in an action reminiscent of Manchester United’s, when they withdrew from the 2000 FA Cup competitions due to Club World Cup priorities.
Third-tier Oxford and fourth-tier Colchester have been the surprise packages in this year’s tournament. The Yellows reached the last eight for the first time in 32 years thanks to a penalty shoot-out success over Sunderland for whom Will Grigg was certainly not on fire, the Northern Irishman missing the key kick to send Oxford through.
Colchester United have provided most of the fairytale content in this year’s EFL Cup, defeating two Premier League clubs, on penalties, on their way to the quarter-finals. Firstly in the third round they travelled to Selhurst Park and defeated Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace, then topped that off with a memorable success over last season’s Champions League finalists, Tottenham Hotspur in round four at their little Colchester Community Stadium.
Manchester United, who themselves, needed a penalty shoot-out to dispose of lowly neighbours, Rochdale in round three, will do well to treat the Essex minnows with respect.