Manchester City and Stoke are David John's two picks for glory this season in the outright betting for the Carabao Cup.
Round three of the Carabao Cup means some heavyweight interest as the cream of the crop from the Premier League mull over whether they deem the competition worthy of some effort.
I would very much say 'yes' if they are able to overcome this week’s first hurdle.
In 18 renewals since the year 2000, only five teams have managed to break the stranglehold outside of those considered the established big guns of English football so searching too far beyond the obvious represents a task that has its foundations rather based in futility.
Manchester United’s success in February was a hugely important part of Jose Mourinho’s development in the highest-profile management job in the world and I do not doubt for a second that a last-gasp success over Southampton gave them the impetus for further glory in the Europa League.
An improved squad and a return to the Champions League means Mourinho has bigger fish to fry both domestically and abroad but Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp may all want to take a leaf out of his book as they try to deliver a first trophy in their respective tenures.
Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal all trade at less than 10/1 and will play the rotation game along with the market-leading Red Devils and Chelsea – we simply can’t get away from that fact.
Managers will try to sugar-coat the strategy as much as they possibly can but it is very much a case of 'suck it and see' – a couple of their main rivals crashing out or a handy match-up in the next round could suddenly perk up the interest for any of those still involved.
All the protagonists have European football to contend with but Manchester City seem in the best place to cope with the rigours under the driven Guardiola.
He has arguably one of the tougher draws to overcome at this stage as they travel to West Brom but they are in such dominant form currently it is little surprise to see them trading at 2/5 to see off the Baggies.
Pep will be motivated by the chance of setting a little piece of club history too as a clean sheet at The Hawthorns would be the first time he will have achieved the feat of four in a row after his backline has taken more than enough stick over the last few weeks.
Whichever players he finally entrusts with the job on Wednesday should be more than capable of getting a result and as mentioned previously, some silverware going back to the Etihad sooner rather than later is extremely important - this represents the easiest route to achieve that end.
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Those after a bit more of a speculative run for their money might want to have a look at Stoke City with plenty of positive noises coming out of the bet365 Stadium.
The Potters seemed to be a team to take on after they sold best player Marko Arnautovic to West Ham and with little in the way of quality moving in the other direction, manager Mark Hughes was in danger of serving up another season of mediocrity and little in the way of progress.
A few flashing strokes of pen on cheque book by the club’s owners whirled though deals for Jese, Max Choupo-Moting, Kurt Zouma and Kevin Wimmer to give them far greater depth and thus appeal for a potential run in one of the cups all of a sudden.
Some of the more glamorous Premier League outfits have far more straightforward assignments in the third round as Stoke face a trappy trip to Bristol City but Hughes is very keen on making an impact.
"We will field a strong side to match them and there won’t be wholesale changes as we want to really give it a go," he said in a bid to oust a side that took the scalp of Watford at Vicarage Road in the last set of fixtures.
Hughes’ plan to rotate involves giving veterans like Peter Crouch, Glen Johnson and Charlie Adam a spin out rather than using it as an arena to simply blood some youngsters and hope for the best.
His approach backs up the theory he does have serious intentions of going deeper into the competition rather than just drift off and focus on the Premier League until the FA Cup in January.
The draw and injuries do play a part for any team outside of the English elite but Southampton showed what is possible by making it to Wembley and Hughes’ positive outlook makes them worthy of a second glance at 40/1.
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Posted at 1715 BST on 18/09/17.
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