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Monday, 10 December, 2018

United have a firm grip on the League Cup

Strong squad is full of quality

Romelu Lukaku celebrates against former club Everton
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Jose Mourinho joined Sir Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough as the most successful managers in League Cup history when Manchester United defeated Southampton 3-2 at Wembley in March and he can claim the record for himself by helping the Red Devils retain the trophy.

The Portuguese has taken charge of just seven League Cup campaigns during his spells with Chelsea and United but has landed the trophy four times.

This season the League Cup will be at the bottom of Mourinho's priority list - as it is for every Premier League manager - but he just loves winning trophies and has a big enough squad to send out a strong team for every round.

United are the market leaders but they may still be overpriced.

They should come through their third-round tie at home to Burton without problems and Mourinho may be prepared to send out more of his star players if they land a tough draw in the round of 16.

He did that last season, handing starts to David De Gea, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the fourth-round clash at home to Manchester City and was rewarded with a 1-0 victory.

City boss Pep Guardiola took a very different approach, making nine changes and starting teenagers Pablo Maffeo and Aleix Garcia.

Given the strength of Guardiola's squad, he could name a reserve side in every round and go close to winning the competition.

However, City have a tricky opener at West Brom and look short enough as second favourites.

Liverpool have won the competition a record eight times and were semi-finalists last season but they are likely to be more focused on Premier League and Champions League points.

Their squad isn't as strong as the Manchester clubs and they are easily sidestepped.

Chelsea have more depth but their Champions League group - featuring Roma and Atletico Madrid - looks tricky and will monopolise their midweek attention.

Top-level European football will also be a major distraction for Spurs, while Arsenal and Everton have heavy Europa League schedules to consider.

Outside of the big six there may be some each-way value in siding with Crystal Palace.

Roy Hodgson has come in at Selhurst Park with the main aim of securing top-flight survival but he might also take the Eagles on a cup run.

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Leicester v Liverpool

EFL Cup match bets

Palace's start to the season has been a disaster with Frank De Boer failing to get enough of the players to adapt to his methods, star player Wilfried Zaha crocked by a knee injury and key defensive signing Mamadou Sakho short of match fitness.

But Hodgson should soon get the players pulling in the same direction and could soon be able to call on Zaha, who has started running on the training field.

Palace were 2-1 winners at home to a youthful Ipswich side in the second round and are likely to face a second-string Huddersfield line-up at Selhurst Park.

Huddersfield manager David Wagner regularly rotates his team for cup competitions and made ten changes for last month's 2-1 success at home to Rotherham.

Palace should come through the tie and it may be just the beginning of a journey to Wembley. 

Fourteen Sky Bet Championship sides have reached the last 32 and big-spending Wolves look the best-equipped of them to make an impact.

They won 2-0 at 2016-17 runners-up Southampton in the second round and should have few problems winning their third-round tie at home to Bristol Rovers.

Wolves's main priority is to reach the Premier League but they could go well at a big price.

Manchester United
3pts 6-1 Betfair, Paddy Power
Crystal Palace
1pt each-way 40-1 bet365, Hills, Paddy Power
1pt each-way 80-1 Betfred, Hills

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Chelsea's Champions League group - featuring Roma and Atletico Madrid - looks tricky and will monopolise their midweek attention
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