Opinion: Why League Cup Progress Is More Important Than You Might Think

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We’ve seen it all before, League Cup success doesn’t often transfer to other competitions…

The League Cup – a welcome distraction or an unnecessary concern? Sunderland’s progress last season certainly helped inspire them to Premier League survival, while Birmingham’s win in 2011 almost certainly cost them their place in England’s top division.

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So who have we got left this year? We’ve got the Premier League champions elect – Chelsea – who have the squad to stretch across multiple competitions and a manager with ambitions of winning every trophy available to him.

Jose Mourinho has already promised to field a strong side in tonight’s clash against Derby County, and you have to expect the Blues to enjoy a fairly comfortable night, albeit against a more than respectable Championship opponent.

Steve McClaren will have been deeply concerned by Saturday’s limp display at Middlesbrough, which saw his side knocked off their perch as league leaders, and will be fully focused on reigniting a promotion push rather than progressing here.

Tuesday night’s second game is an interesting one. Southampton are in dire form, with five straight Premier League defeats – including a demoralising loss against Burnley – dropping them down to fifth in the table.

Ronald Koeman is under pressure for the first time, and will surely target this fixture against League One Sheffield United as the ideal opportunity to get a win on the board and rediscover some confidence.

United will certainly be no pushovers, but like Derby should be more focused on promotion. Expect a strong Southampton team to prove too hot to handle for their hosts.

Bournemouth v Liverpool is another intriguing game. The same match-up ended in a 2-0 Reds win in January, when the two sides met in the FA Cup, but momentum has swung since then: Bournemouth are top of the Championship, while in contrast, Liverpool sit 11th in the Premier League.

Tottenham and Newcastle have enjoyed mixed fortunes in the league this season, but both are in decent form and should put on a good game tomorrow night. The only all-Premier League tie of the round, both set of fans will be demanding continued progress and a chance of silverware.

The League Cup is something of a wild card, where team’s can benefit from being in the right place at the right time. Supporters often dismiss the competition as unimportant, but those same fans quickly change their tune when their team reaches the latter stages.

For Chelsea, like Manchester City before them, it is just another opportunity to win a trophy. For Liverpool and Tottenham, it is a welcome chance to promote positivity, in an otherwise difficult season.

For Newcastle and Southampton, it is a rare chance to earn a trip to Wembley and a shot at success. For Derby, Bournemouth and Sheffield United, it’s a distraction, but remains a welcome one so long as their league form doesn’t suffer.

With just four game standing between all eight teams and a guaranteed place in Europe, there is certainly plenty to play for.

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