Mark O’Haire’s Capital One Cup Tips – Wednesday
Wednesday night’s Capital One Cup contest between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary’s is arguably the most eye-catching of this midweek’s quarter-finals with Ronald Koeman’s hosts hunting a first semi-final appearance since 1987.
Southampton v Liverpool, Wednesday 2 December 19.45, Sky Sports 1
The Saints have reached the last eight for the second successive campaign but following their loss to Sheffield United at this stage in 2014/15, are hoping their strong League Cup home form can lead them to progression.
Southampton have been eliminated in just two of their last 14 home games in this competition and whilst they’ve lost back-to-back games to Stoke and Man City, can recall top goalscorer Graziano Pelle for this crucial clash. The Italian missed the club’s 3-1 defeat at City through suspension but has already notched nine goals this term.
However, Saints will be without centre-half Jose Fonte due to a hamstring injury with Steven Caulker likely to replace him in the heart of the home defence.
The south-coast side can boast an excellent backline record in the Premier League since Koeman arrived.
They have collected 13/26 (50%) clean sheets at their Mary’s base.
Southampton arrived at this stage thanks to victories over Championship strugglers MK Dons and Premier League basement boys Aston Villa but to reach the semi-finals for the first time in nearly 30 years, they’ll need to put a halt to a run of successive defeats when hosting Liverpool.
Eight-time winners Liverpool have made the semis in two of the past four campaigns and head south in excellent shape (W7-D8-L1) with their most recent record returning W6-D1-L0 in both league and cup competitions. Having began his Anfield career with three consecutive draws – including a 1-1 draw at home to the Saints – Jurgen Klopp’s men have stormed into form.
The Reds haven’t won four fixtures on the bounce since February but that’s the carrot for Klopp’s charges to strive for on Wednesday and the popular German has promised to field his strongest possible team. Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho are both set to return whilst captain Jordan Henderson is also in line to make an appearance with Simon Mignolet being given a night off in goal.
The Merseyside outfit have beaten Carlisle and Bournemouth to reach this stage and Klopp has challenged his squad to build on their impressive transformation under his watch.
His successful ‘gegenpressing’ philosophy is beginning to reap rewards but I’m still not 100% convinced…
…Liverpool’s weary squad will be ready for yet another tough encounter having played 10 club games since mid-October with many also involved in internationals.
The duo have already been involved in 5/14 (36%) draws in league action this season and extra-time looks like it could come into play here. The Saints’ W14-D5-L7 record in front of their home fans in the Premier League under their Dutch head coach deserves plenty of respect and six of those seven losses came against top-half teams.
As for Liverpool, the visitors have W1-D4-L3 when taking on clubs in the current top-10 this term as they’ve taken 70% of their 23-point haul at bottom-half dwellers. So with the tie too tight to call, I’ll back the draw at 9/4 with extra-time quite possibly to come.
Draw @ 9/4
*Prices correct at time of publication.