Sunday 26th February. 4:30PM. Sky Sports 1
Premier League rivals Manchester United and Southampton head to Wembley for the the first cup final of 2017, and both clubs will be equally determined to get their hands on the rebranded trophy.
Who will lift the EFL Cup in front of 90,000 in the capital? Here’s all you need to know.
The Special One To Begin Old Trafford Trophy Haul
It seems an age since Jose Mourinho guided his new club to the Community Shield back in August, but that success doesn’t count. This is Manchester United’s first shot at silverware of the new era, and they’ll be eager to win it in style in the capital.
Mourinho has fond memories of this tournament, which provided his first silverware in both spells at Chelsea. While he’s unlikely to follow it with a Premier League title, as was the case in 2005 and 2015, it would signal a big moment in the early parts of his Old Trafford reign and could be the catalyst to inspire a productive final third of the 2016-17.
The Red Devils will be firm favourites to lift the trophy, in spite of playing in the Europa League and seeing both Michael Carrick and Henrikh Mkhitaryan suffer injuries on Wednesday. Confidence should be strong as they enter the clash on the back of six straight wins while their squad is far more familiar with the big occasion too.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring for fun and the likes of Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial finding their feet, the favourites are certainly a dangerous proposition. Meanwhile, with skipper Wayne Rooney set to stay until the summer, it could be the perfect chance for the iconic club legend to climb the famous steps one last time – although the Saints might have something to say about that.
Can Saints March On To Europe Once More?
Southampton did brilliantly well to qualify for Europe twice under Ronald Koeman,and Claude Puel is now just 90 minutes away from continuing that tradition whilst adding silverware to the trophy cabinet too.
Saints haven’t been in great form, but they did beat Sunderland 4-0 in their last competitive outing and have since had a full fortnight to prepare for this crucial cup final. Meanwhile, the January addition of Manolo Gabbiadini has given the underdogs a new bite in attack.
The St Mary’s club aren’t without their problems. Virgil van Dijk’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time given that they also lost Jose Fonte to West Ham. With Charlie Austin likely to be joined on the absentee list by Sofiane Boufal too,
Nonetheless, Southampton enjoyed an incredible run to Wembley and will have no fear heading into Sunday’s showpiece. If they start strongly, anything is possible.
Manchester United v Southampton Betting
Unsurprisingly, Manchester United head to Wembley as the odds-on favourites and are priced 4/5 to win the final in 90 minutes. Southampton, meanwhile, are available at 15/4. Alternatively, extra-time can be backed at 5/2.
Southampton have been brilliant in this competition, but their run will likely end in disappointment as Mourinho just knows how to win. Manchester United haven’t always sparkled, but they continue to pick up results now that they’ve found their flow. We expect them to do that here.
Moreover, we think they’ll have the lead long before the final whistle. Even if it’s only by one goal, they should see it out. As long as they do it until 75, that would suit us just fine.
The Red Devils certainly boast a greater number of potential match winners. However, on current form, it’s difficult to look past veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Goals have been a regular occurrence for the Swede, especially since the turn of the year. Like his manager, he is a serial winner also. Back him to guide the favourites to the trophy with another fantastic performance.