December brings a thick and fast run of games. No sooner than the Premier League weekend is over, the EFL Cup quarter-finals approach on the horizon.
Tuesday’s matches feature two interesting ties: the two non-Premier League clubs left in the competition, and a replay of one of last year’s quarter-finals.
Our friends at Football Whispers are here to preview these two match-ups.
Middlesbrough vs Burton Albion
Middlesbrough may be in the play-off places in the Championship but they haven’t been in the best form of late. Despite manager Tony Pulis’ reputation for defensive-mindedness, the team hasn’t kept a clean sheet since November 10 and haven’t won since November 24.
This could mean that Burton are meeting them at an ideal time. Not only are Boro off their best, but their focus will be on the league, rather than a EFL Cup run. Pulis has admitted that he’s concerned about the widening gap between his side and the league leaders — Leeds United, with the distance now nine points — and they face a long away trip to Reading this coming weekend.
Burton might need the help; they’re currently lying 15th in League One after having been relegated from the Championship last season. They’ve lost four of their last six games in all competitions, although won the other two, beating Coventry City and Shrewsbury Town.
On top of their latest defeat, a 1-0 loss to Fleetwood Town, they suffered injuries to three key players: Liam Boyce, Scott Fraser, and David Templeton.
Injuries aside, Burton won’t let the disappointment affect them for this quarter-final.
“It’s a one-off game on Tuesday, a quarter-final, so we won’t let this affect our efforts,” manager Nigel Clough said.
EFL Cup Middlesbrough v Burton Preview, Betting Tips And Enhanced Odds
Reaching the semi-final would be a big deal for the Brewers.
“It’s sort of season-changing, and next season, financial wise,” Clough said. “It would be an incredible thing for the club if we could do that, and we’re going to try to see if we can do it.
Leicester City vs Manchester City
Unfortunately for Leicester, the underdogs in this tie have little to look to take advantage of. Sergio Aguero could be back in action against Leicester after sitting out five games with a groin injury.
Even if Pep Guardiola decides not to bring him back for this game, Gabriel Jesus has hit fine form, scoring twice against Everton. Kevin de Bruyne also made his return from a lengthy injury lay-off in the win against the Toffees.
City are not only the Premier League champions but the EFL Cup holders as well, and Guardiola’s side will be playing to win as always.
“I cannot imagine going into a game thinking, ‘Oh, it will be better to lose because then we’ll have more time to rest’. I have never thought in that way,” the manager said.
“We’re going to prepare as always to win the game, to try to reach the semi-final and then we’d have two legs to try to reach another final.”
City are well aware of their great strength in depth.
“No, we’re ok,” Bernardo Silva said when asked whether City would struggle with a packed December schedule. “We have a lot of players, a good squad. We’re fit, we eat well and sleep well so we’re prepared to play all those games and in these busy months.”
As for Leicester themselves, they’re coming off back-to-back defeats in the Premier League, to Tottenham and Crystal Palace. Not only did they lose, but they failed to even score against a side who had just conceded three goals in recent games against Brighton & Hove Albion and West Ham United.
Against Guardiola’s team, Leicester can’t afford the kind of slow start that has come to characterise Claude Puel’s reign. The Foxes suffered another at the weekend: “We have worked tirelessly all week trying to put on a good performance this week and the first 20 minutes we started pretty slow,” Harry Maguire explained after the match. James Maddison, who has been impressive this season since joining from Norwich City, was brought off at half-time for Rachid Ghezzal in a bid to bring some energy to the side.
In another omen that doesn’t bode well for Leicester, this game is a replay of last season’s quarter-final. That match went to penalties, after finishing 1-1, but Manchester City won the shoot-out.
*odds subject to change
EFL Cup Leicester v Manchester City preview, Betting Tips And Enhanced Odds
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