- Both Manchester sides face lower league opposition
- Liverpool will be fielding a team of reserves and youth players
- Leicester City may be distracted by their subsequent fixture
The Carabao Cup is back for the quarter-finals stage and there are two finely poised ties as well as matches involving the Manchester sides facing off against lower league opposition. Each of the four fixtures is analysed below, with some Carabao Cup predictions offered.
Aston Villa vs Liverpool (Tuesday December 17th, 19:45 UK time)
This fixture is the most-talked-about one of this round, given the scheduling conflict it has created for Liverpool. In the end, the Reds are playing this match on the Tuesday night and then their Club World Cup semi-final the following day.
Obviously, the same players cannot take part in both competitions and Liverpool have prioritised the Club World Cup tournament. Jurgen Klopp and key players such as Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, amongst others, will all be taking part in the international tournament. That leaves a very young and inexperienced squad for this trip to Aston Villa, while the team will be coached by U23s coach Neil Critchley.
As much as Liverpool shouldn’t be written off, this surely looks like a step too far for a group of youngsters.
Prediction: Home win in normal time
Everton vs Leicester City (Wednesday December 18th, 19:45 UK time)
With nine victories in a row, Leicester City are in super form as they head into a tough week. They might, though, have one eye on the fixture they’re due to play after this game as they visit Manchester City in the league three days after this Carabao Cup clash.
Everton, meanwhile, could have a new permanent coach in place in time for this game and this would be the first home game for the new boss. Even if caretaker Duncan Ferguson remains in charge, it has to be kept in mind that he led the Toffees to a 3-1 victory over Chelsea just last weekend.
It won’t be easy, of course, but I think this could be a special Goodison Park night and I think Everton could halt Leicester’s superb run.
Prediction: Home win, after extra time
Oxford United vs Manchester City (Wednesday December 18th, 19:45 UK time)
“We have other competitions to play in.” Those were the words of Pep Guardiola in a recent press conference, when commenting on the 14-point gap to leaders Liverpool in the Premier League table. The Catalan coach seemed to be admitting that his side now have to focus on the knockout tournaments, tournaments such as the Carabao Cup.
As such, Oxford United can expect to go up against a strong Manchester City side. This match does fall between tough league games against Arsenal and Leicester City and City are missing injured players like Leroy Sané, Aymeric Laporte and Sergio Agüero, but it sounds like Guardiola is determined to win this competition and a strong away XI has to be expected.
It would be tough for third-tier Oxford United in any circumstances, but even more in these ones.
Prediction: Away win in normal time
Manchester United vs Colchester United (Wednesday December 18th, 20:00 UK time)
Colchester United have already knocked out two Premier League clubs so far in this competition, defeating Crystal Palace and Tottenham on penalties after goalless draws. Manchester United cannot, therefore, underestimate their League Two opponents.
The home team, though, have to be considered the favourites due to the quality of players in their squad and their record at Old Trafford. They haven’t lost at home since August, winning seven and drawing three of their 10 home matches since then.
Prediction: Home win in normal time.