Stoke v Brentford
The Championship is incredibly tightly grouped with just seven points separating 5th and 20th at the moment, and with Stoke in ninth they’ll be hopeful of challenging for promotion this season. Three successive defeats have seen them fall out of the ply-off spots though, and that won’t do wonders for confidence heading into this match against a tough Brentford side.
The Bees have impressed so far in the Premier League, and currently sit in 12th, though their performances have warranted better results. Thomas Frank will likely rotate his squad here to give some fringe members a chance, with Michael O’Neill likely doing the same, and that should level the playing field considerably.
This will be the 15th meeting between the two in Stoke, with the hosts amazingly having lost none of the prior 14 (W10-D4), and that will serve as considerable motivation for the Championship side. With second string sides likely fielded, there’s very little to separate them, especially considering this being played in Stoke, and the draw looks a good value bet here.
West Ham v Man City
David Moyes’ Hammers are going from strength to strength at the moment, with their victory over Spurs at the weekend catapulting them into the top four. Michail Antonio was again the goalscorer on the day, though it’s very unlikely that he features here as the club look to manage his match-time efficiently.
Man City are looking as menacing as ever, and their squad depth remains one of, if not the strongest in Europe, and it’s therefore no surprise that they’ve won each of the last four renewals of this competition and are looking to become the first club ever to win five on the bounce after Liverpool managed the feat in the 80s.
The Hammers managed a draw at home to Guardiola’s side last year, though prior to that they had lost each of the previous five, conceding at least four time in each outing. The fact that they’re pushing for another European spot this year, as well as managing their Europa League campaign means this competition will likely fall by the wayside, and we’d expect a comfortable City win considering the circumstances.
MAN CITY -1 HANDICAP
Leicester v Brighton
After what has been a slow start to the season by Leicester’s standards, they’ve now won three on the bounce in all competitions for the first time since April, as Brendan Rogers’ side look to make a charge for the top four yet again. In the meantime, attention will be focussed on the league cup where they’ll be looking to emulate and exceed their semi-final run from the 2019/20 season.
Brighton have been this season’s prized package so far as they currently sit up in fifth in the league. Graham Potter won’t be getting carried away though and will be well aware that survival is still the priority this season. He’ll therefore probably make like Rogers and rotate considerably here, and that’s where the advantage will probably fall with the hosts’ depth in squad.
Leicester actually have a poor recent record against Premier League sides in this competition, failing to win any of their last nine such matches sine a 2-0 win hosting Liverpool in September 2017. It should be noted that seven of those nine outings ended all square though, and that outcome is a real possibility again here.
Amazingly, the Seagulls are looking for their first ever win over 90 minutes against a Premier League side, and with no victories in their last four outings across all competitions now, it’s difficult to get behind them ending that run away at the King Power, and the value lies in this one going to penalties.
Burnley v Tottenham
Burnley are yet to register a league win this term and across all competitions they’re just W1-D5-L5 over 90 minutes. That sole win came against fourth-tier outfit Rochdale in the previous round of this competition, while they had previously downed Newcastle on penalties following a goalless stalemate. Still, Sean Dyche’s side have only lost once in their past five appearances now, with that a respectable 2-0 defeat away to Man City, also drawing league games with Leicester, Norwich and Southampton in addition to the win over Rochdale.
Tottenham responded to a hugely disappointing display in the North London derby with a trio of victories, smashing Slovakian outfit Mura 5-1 and earning narrow league wins over both Aston Villa and Newcastle. However, the mood has quickly changed after back-to-back 1-0 defeats on the road, first going to Dutch side Vitesse and then to West Ham at the weekend.
Tottenham have been poor at stopping crosses into the box and West Ham’s winner came via a corner, while Thomas Soucek also went close with a header. Michail Antonio physically bullied Cristian Romero on occasion and so Burnley will be seeking to take advantage of set-pieces in this clash. Sean Dyche holds an impressive record against Nuno Espirito Santo, with his Burnley side W3-D2-L1 against the latter’s Wolves outfit, and he’ll see no reason why his side can’t cause Tottenham similar problems.
BURNLEY/DRAW DOUBLE CHANCE
Preston v Liverpool
Liverpool were simply sensational in their 5-0 humbling of Man Utd, but there’s no doubt that Jurgen Klopp will make wholesale changes here and especially in midfield. Naby Keita and James Milner picked up knocks at Old Trafford, joining Tiago and Harvey Elliott on the sidelines, while Fabinho missed that game as well and won’t be risked in this fixture either.
Still, a midfield trio of Curtis Jones, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should be more than enough to compete with Preston, who are struggling at present with just two wins from their past 10 outings. Even one of those was picked up over League One side Cheltenham, but the hosts also have selection problems with as many as seven players absent.
Right-back Matthew Olosunde and attackers Connor Wickham, Isaiah Brown and Ched Evans are all injured. In central midfield, Alistair McCann is rated doubtful and captain Alan Browne is suspended, while at the back Liverpool loanee Sepp van den Berg is ineligible. Not all of them are automatic first team picks, but their options from the bench are greatly reduced.
Liverpool have now scored at least three times in nine of their last 10 fixtures, with the exception a 2-2 draw with Man City. That includes clashes with the likes of AC Milan, Porto, Atletico Madrid and Man Utd, but although their key stars won’t be on display, a similar team to the one that thumped Norwich 3-0 in the previous round should take to the field. Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi got the goals that day, and the Reds should have more than enough firepower to make this a comfortable evening.
LIVERPOOL -1 HANDICAP