Liverpool v Leeds
Tuesday November 29, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 1
The Reds made it 14 games unbeaten in all competitions when they scored two late goals to see off Sunderland on Saturday, a result that has them second in the Premier League table, just one point behind leaders Chelsea.
The major injury news coming out of Saturday's game is the possibility of a long spell on the sidelines for Philippe Coutinho. The influential Brazilian, who has scored five league goals this term as well as assisting a further six, has suspected ankle ligament damage and is having scans on Monday to determine the full extent of the injury.
It's doubtful that Coutinho would have started Tuesday night's EFL Cup game against Leeds anyway given Jurgen Klopp's tendency to heavily rotate his side in domestic cup competitions since his arrival on Merseyside. Only Divock Origi has started all three matches in this competition; the Belgian has two goals to his name in the Reds' victories over Burton (5-0), Derby (3-0), and Tottenham (2-1).
Origi is certain to start on Tuesday night given the injury absences of Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, and Danny Ings, and the likely absence of Daniel Sturridge who has a calf strain. That could mean a first professional start for 17-year-old midfielder Ben Woodburn. The youngster came on as a second half substitute against Sunderland but will be unlucky not to play from the outset here. Klopp has confirmed that Simon Mignolet will start in goal.
United are up to fifth in the Championship following a 2-1 away win at Rotherham on Saturday, the club's fourth league win from their last five outings.
Like the Liverpool boss Garry Monk has rotated his side often in this competition, so far starting no fewer than 23 of his squad in their four games to date. United's leading goalscorer Chris Wood has started just once, though his two substitute appearances against Blackburn and Norwich both yielded goals, while only defender Lewis Coyle, who has made just one substitute appearance in the league, and midfielder Kemar Roofe have started all of Leeds' four EFL Cup matches.
Defender Pontus Jansson is available again following suspension and is likely to start should Monk field a strong side.
The dilemma for the United boss of course, with his side gathering momentum in the league, is does he start with his strongest XI available at Anfield ahead of Saturday's huge Championship clash with in-form Aston Villa at Elland Road?
Liverpool have been quite ruthless in their two EFL Cup away ties against Championship opposition this season, thrashing Burton and Derby by a combined scoreline of 8-0, so it's no surprise to see them available to back at just [1.25] (Leeds [13.5], Draw [7.2]) given home advantage against a similar-ability side.
I must point out this however. The Reds were significantly shorter - [1.19] to be precise - to beat a relatively in-form Premier League side on Saturday, so on that basis alone, [1.25] to win this encounter has to be of some appeal.
Undoubtedly the market is pricing this game up on the assumption that Klopp will field a weakened side and Monk will play his strongest. I'm not convinced by that and have to wager accordingly.
Klopp was without the services of Lallana and Sturridge against Sunderland while Coutinho was replaced with an hour to go, so given Liverpool's mounting injury list it's very possible that a lot of the players that finished Saturday's game so strongly - the likes of Jordan Henderson, Saido Mane, Emre Can, Lucas and Origi for example - will figure prominently against Leeds. Klopp's only other option would be to start with a bunch of youngsters and I just don't see that happening at this stage of the competition.
Monk may well field his strongest side but don't be surprised if he rotates as he has done in previous rounds. Leeds have a huge game in the Championship on Saturday and the last thing the former Swansea boss will want from this cup tie is a 120-minute football match and the possibility of an injury to a key player.
For these reasons I believe Liverpool are a stonking bet for short-odds backers, but I'm happy to wager on a home win at bigger odds in a couple of other markets.
Half Time/Full Time & Liverpool -2 (Sportsbook)
These bets hardly need any reason applying given what I've alluded to already - that Liverpool are a far better team, have home advantage, and could line up quite strong against a rotated Leeds side.
But for the record, Klopp's men have won 11 times in all competitions this season and in nine (82%) of those games they were in front at the interval. In just 16 league and cup matches this campaign the Reds have scored a very impressive 21 goals. So if you're of the opinion that the home side will win this match then backing Liverpol HT/Liverpool FT at [1.8] looks a good way to profit.
Another way is to back Liverpool on the handicap. You can get 13/20 about them winning by at least two clear goals but I fancy pushing the boat out here. Of the seven wins this season in which Klopp's men covered the -1 goal handicap, five of them were actually won by at least three clear goals, including both EFL Cup ties against Championship opposition.
If you fancy a comfortable win for the Reds, and I do, then backing Liverpool -2 has a great chance of paying dividends at odds of 8/5.