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League Cup Final 2016 Preview

 SkySports1 Sunday 28th February / 4.30pm

RECOMMENDED BETSMARKETODDSBOOKMAKERS
LiverpoolTo Lift The Trophy5/4Bet365, Paddy Power
Philippe Coutinho (ew)First Goalscorer12/1Bet365
Philippe CoutinhoMan of the Match11/1Paddy Power
LiverpoolMatch Winner and Both Teams To Score5/1Bet365
LiverpoolTo Score 2+ Goals17/10BetVictor

There’s little to choose between Manchester City and Liverpool ahead of Sunday’s Capital One Cup final, with City the 29/20 favourites with William Hill in the 90 minute betting and Liverpool a best price of 21/20 with Bet365.

It’s been three months since the last meeting of these two sides, when Liverpool crushed City 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium, but things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for either side over the winter. Since their remarkable 6-1 win over Southampton in this competition, which was their seventh win in eight matches in the early stages of Jurgen Klopp’s reign, Liverpool have won only 6 of 20 games. Meanwhile City have fallen to fourth in the Premier League after back-to-back home defeats to Leicester and Tottenham which were the culmination of a long sequence of sub-standard performances.

Earlier in the week it would have been easy to tip Liverpool for this final on the basis of that victory at the Etihad and City’s recent poor form, but the 3-1 win for Manuel Pellegrini’s side in Kiev on Wednesday changes the picture somewhat. City at their best has been a rare sight this season, but their flagging confidence will have been given a welcome boost.

City looked more assured with Vincent Kompany back in partnership with Nicolas Otamendi, while the tactical switch that moved Fernandinho to the right side of midfield and allowed David Silva the freedom to play his preferred No.10 role served the dual purpose of giving Bacary Sagna more protection and Sergio Aguero more room and better service.

Both Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure had their best games in months in Ukraine and it’s perhaps a blessing that Pellegrini does not have the options in his injury-hit squad to change things around. He may make the mistake of recalling Willy Caballero in goal, however, with the Argentine having played in every round. He simply isn’t in Joe Hart’s class and makes City much more vulnerable, particularly at set pieces.

When Liverpool won at the Etihad they tore apart the hapless defensive pairing of Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis – easily the weakest of City’s options in the back four – and they shouldn’t find it so easy against Kompany and Otamendi. That said, this match could hinge on the work-rate of Toure and Fernando, who will need to match the effort they showed on Wednesday.

That work rate is not always a given and if they ease off they will allow Liverpool’s likely attacking trio of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge the space they need to wreak havoc against a high back-line. There is a mismatch in pace and movement between the two teams that Liverpool will seek to exploit.

All the evidence over the last 18 months suggests that Toure, as brilliant as he has been at times during his City career, does not have the energy in his legs for two big performances in the space of four days, while Fernando’s future at the club is surely in question when Pep Guardiola arrives in the summer. The Brazilian is in the side out of necessity rather than on merit and has failed to impress during his two years at the club. Sterling is another concern for City – he has had some good games in Europe but in domestic games he has looked burdened by that £49m price tag, never more so than in his meek display against his former employers.

For those reasons we suggest backing Liverpool to lift the trophy at best odds of 5/4 with Bet365 or Paddy Power.

So often a thorn in City’s side during his short time at Liverpool, Coutinho is the man who can lead Liverpool to success. The 23-year-old has faced City five times and has scored in four of those games – the way City allow space between their defence and midfield suits him down to the ground and enables him to pull the strings. He was superb in that 4-1 romp, when he scored Liverpool’s second after Mangala’s own goal opener, and scored the winner at Anfield in the league last March. Bet365 are offering 12/1 that he scores the opening goal, which is a cracking each-way choice. Meanwhile Paddy Power offer Coutinho at 11/1 in their man-of-the-match betting.

This fixture has produced a lot of goals in recent years and Sunday should be no exception. Both teams have scored in each of the last eight meetings, each of them scoring at least two goals in six of those eight, which have produced an average of four goals per game. Liverpool to win and both teams to score for the fourth time in five meetings is 5/1 with Bet365, or you can back Klopp’s side to score two or more goals at 17/10 with BetVictor.

RECOMMENDED BETSMARKETODDSBOOKMAKERS
LiverpoolTo Lift The Trophy5/4Bet365, Paddy Power
Philippe Coutinho (ew)First Goalscorer12/1Bet365
Philippe CoutinhoMan of the Match11/1Paddy Power
LiverpoolMatch Winner and Both Teams To Score5/1Bet365
LiverpoolTo Score 2+ Goals17/10BetVictor