Carling Cup Final Betting: Man Utd v Tottenham
As Manchester United go looking for their first trophy of the season, Tottenham go looking for a UEFA Cup spot. The London side are after all the defending champions and will be giving it their all, says Nik Wardle. Best bet: Back over 2.5 goals @ [2.06].
The first piece of silverware of the domestic season is up for grabs on Sunday in the Carling Cup final. Although this competition isn't highest on the list of the priorities of either Man United or Tottenham, it doesn't mean that all the players selected won't be going all out to win.
Man United are the hot favourites at [1.76]. If Sir Alex Ferguson were to pick his strongest side I think this game would be a no-contest but there's uncertainty over his selection.
Sir Alex will see this match as the first step to the quadruple so I think he'll name a strong-ish side. United have many players of similar quality and for this match I don't think it really matters if it's Nani or Park, Darren Fletcher or Paul Scholes, or Wayne Rooney or Carlos Tevez. However, if he were to fill half of his team with the likes of Ben Foster, Fabio Da Silva, Rafael Da Silva, Darron Gibson and Danny Welbeck - we may have more of a game on our hands.
Spurs' lack of available attacking options seriously hinders their chances of victory and this is borne out in their odds of [5.6] to win in 90 minutes - attractive odds though they are for a final. Frazier Campbell and Robbie Keane are ineligible and Jermain Defoe is injured, which leaves just Darren Bent and Roman Pavlyuchenko as their available strikers.
Given Harry Redknapp's comments that he's unlikely to go gung-ho, I expect Spurs to play 4-4-1-1, with Luka Modric playing just behind Pavlyuchenko. The Russian is more of a target man than Bent, who prefers running in behind defenders, so is likely to get the nod in this formation. Given that Modric is more of a midfielder than a second striker and Aaron Lennon and David Bentley rarely get into the box, Pavlyuchenko is likely to spend much of the game battling away on his own up front if Spurs do opt for this formation.
It was at Wembley for Croatia that Modric came to the nation's attention and Spurs will need him in that kind of form if they're to stand a chance. He hasn't really got going for Spurs yet, though. Redknapp has often selected him wide on the left but he struggles to get into a game from there and his tendency to drift leaves his full back exposed. Modric would rather play in the middle but if you sacrifice a striker for him, Spurs are short up front and if you sacrifice a central midfielder, the midfield can get overrun. If he doesn't shine at Wembley it wouldn't surprise me if Redknapp tries to cash in on Modric come the summer.
Modern English cup finals are generally tight affairs but given United's attacking prowess, Spurs' inability to defend corners and the fact Spurs always score in cup finals, I reckon there should be a few goals in this game. Betting for Over 2.5 goals at [2.1] is my recommended punt for this fixture. It's [1.84] for Under 2.5 goals if you disagree.
A United 1-0 victory at [7.2] is the most popular selection in the Correct Score market. This is a tricky market to bet on without being certain of United's team but I would still favour 2-1 to United at [9.2].
Although there isn't any particular bad blood between the sides there will be several skilful players on show which could mean a few mistimed tackles. With this in mind I'd look to lay against 5 pts and under in the Bookings Odds category at anything less than [2.7].
Rather surprisingly Spurs have won the League Cup more times than Man United - four times compared to two - but unless Sir Alex fields the kind of team Harry Redknapp picked in the UEFA Cup on Thursday night, that gap should close.
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