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League Cup market one of the toughest to predict and get right

by Smabs Sputzer
The League Cup roll of honour stretching back over the course of the last decade suggests that accusations of the competition becoming little more than an afterthought for most clubs are massively wide of the mark.

Swansea City may have lifted the trophy back in 2013, and Birmingham City two years prior to that, but the former remain a top-flight club with ambitions of cementing a top-half standing and the latter were mixing it at a Premier League level when they took the prize and stunned Arsenal on the day to end a 48-year wait for major silverware.

Outside of those triumphs, looking back to 2005, Chelsea have emerged victorious on three occasions, Manchester United twice and Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur once apiece.

If the tournament is not one to be taken seriously, why has the cream of English football risen to the top on so many occasions?

It can, however, be argued that sides pick and choose their years in which to stake a serious claim for glory in an event which continues to live in the shadow of the more prestigious FA Cup and sits some way down the list of priorities for those pursuing and competing in the Champions League.

This, though, is part of the appeal of the League Cup - you never quite know what is going to happen.

Given that most of the big boys will endeavour to negotiate the early rounds with a heady mix of promising youngsters and experienced heads on the fringes of their first-team squad, upsets are inevitable.

For those that tumble early, attention can be turned elsewhere as a potential distraction is removed from the schedule and the focus is narrowed in other areas.

Once momentum starts to build, though, it quickly becomes apparent that a trophy is within touching distance and that every effort should be made to offer loyal owners, patient supporters and ambitious players a day in the sun at Wembley Stadium.

Even then, though, there is no saying what will happen.

For those looking to pick their way through a League Cup betting slip / coupon, this can make life infuriatingly difficult.

Between rounds one and four, you would expect Championship and Premier League sides to quietly and efficiently pick off the hopefuls from lower down the Football League food chain and open the competition up for themselves.

How, then, do you possibly predict results like MK Dons 4 Manchester United 0? Impossible.

That was, of course, not the only shock in this season's tournament, with three of the last eight clubs left standing competing outside of the top-flight, and League One Sheffield United giving Tottenham Hotspur an almightily scare over the course of a two-legged semi-final.

The FA Cup may have its 'magic' and we are often told that everybody is capable of beating anybody on their day in the Premier League, Championship and beyond. But it is often the League Cup that offers up the greatest number of surprises, with the potential there for the most ardent of football punters and tipsters to be made to look incredibly daft over the course of any given 90 minutes.

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