Sheffield United v Leicester
EFL Carabao Cup
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Blades enjoying early season home comforts
Championship outfit Sheffield United will go into Tuesday night's EFL Cup tie against Leicester having made a 100% winning start to the season at Bramall Lane. The Blades have defeated Brentford and Barnsley, both without conceding, in league action, while a fully-changed starting XI got the better of Walsall 3-2 in the first round of this competition.
United have lost both their league away matches however - though they were extremely unfortunate not to steal a point at Middlesbrough - meaning they currently sit mid-table in the Championship with two wins and two defeats from their opening four games.
After beating Brentford 1-0 in the opening game of the season Chris Wilder then made 11 changes for the visit of Walsall in the League Cup, perhaps suggesting that a good cup run isn't high on his list of early season priorities.
Last season's 30-goal leading goalscorer Billy Sharp has netted both of United's league goals this term and he'll undoubtedly be the key threat to Leicester should Wilder line up with a strong starting XI. Fellow striker Leon Clarke is suspended after being sent off against Barnsley on Saturday.
Shakespeare forced into naming a strong side?
It's been a bright start to the season for Leicester City and they can perhaps feel a little unfortunate to have just three points from their opening two games. Craig Shakespeare's men led 3-2 until the closing stages at Arsenal in their curtain-raiser, but left the Emirates Stadium empty handed after a late Gunners turnaround.
The Foxes then burst out of the blocks in Saturday's home game against newly-promoted Brighton, taking the lead inside the first minute before registering their first win of the campaign with a comfortable 2-0 victory.
Shinji Okazaki and Jamie Vardy started both games, and have scored two goals each, but both are likely to be missing at Bramall Lane. Vardy limped out of the Brighton match with an ankle injury and might not be risked even if recovering in time, while Okazaki could to be rested ahead of the Foxes' trip to rampant Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday.
Islam Slimani is expected to lead the line as the game will come too soon for Kelechi Iheanacho who is still recovering from a toe injury. Wes Morgan, Danny Drinkwater, and Vicente Iborra are all sidelined meaning Shakespeare is unlikely to make wholesale changes on Tuesday night.
Foxes the early favs and the obvious selection
As with all early season EFL Cup games the biggest weapon to us punters is knowing the starting XIs, however we don't have that luxury when penning a preview some 30 hours in advance of kick-off so 'educated' guesswork then becomes key.
The Match Odds market sees Leicester trading at around the [2.1] mark - United [3.8], the Draw [3.6] - and I think that's a very fair price if you believe United boss Wilder will again field a much-changed side.
Interestingly, Wilder named a strong starting XI in the first round last season - his first game in charge at Bramall Lane - but lost in extra-time to Crewe. After the defeat he insisted the league was by far his priority and I just wonder if his hand was forced that night, and felt compelled to field a strong team in his first game on home soil as United manager.
With Morgan, Drinkwater, Iborra, and Iheanacho all still side-lined Shakespeare could possibly start with five or six of the players who started against Brighton, or at least have a very strong bench, and he also has the option of bringing in players like Slimani, Yohan Benalouane, Ben Chilwell, and Demaral Gray.
Our educated guesswork is leaning towards a weakened United side versus a pretty strong Leicester team, and that makes the away win the call at this point.
United's EFL Cup line-up enjoyed a 3-2 victory in round one, Leicester's only away game this term resulted in a 4-3 loss. Going on those results alone then the obvious call is Over 2.5 Goals at around [1.9].
But it's never that simple is it?
The Blades have won both their home league games by a scoreline of 1-0, while the Foxes proved on Saturday that they are very capable of keeping clean sheets against teams weaker than themselves, so Under 2.5 Goals at [2.1] is likely to be a popular choice.
But the gut feeling is that, with some fresh faces desperate to make an impression, an evening cup tie in front of the TV cameras, and two teams in opposition who had a goal involvement average (goals for plus goals conceded) of around the three mark over a full season last term, then wagering that we'll see at least three goals on Tuesday night has to be the call.
Consider also that United's last two home ties in this competition have finished 3-2, and 1-2, and Leicester's last four results in the EFL cup were 2-2 (2-4 after extra-time), 1-1, 2-1, and 1-4, then you can see that generally, these type of games tend to be open affairs rather than cagey encounters.
I toyed between making a Leicester victory, Over 2.5 Goals, or making a strong recommendation for both teams getting on the scoresheet as my best bet of the game, as those previous EFL Cup scores mentioned above, and bits of early form for each club suggest that's how the game might go.
But when previewing an early-season League Cup tie without knowing the starting XIs then I feel it's almost impossible to be overly-confident about any wagers, so instead of having a 'best bet' I'll instead take a punt on all of the above by backing the away victory with both teams getting on the scoresheet.
Obviously that would mean we'll witness at least three goals should the bet land, and I'm also fully aware that I've pretty much put all my eggs in one basket again. But that's exactly how I like to bet.