Stoke vs. Liverpool, Everton vs. Manchester City, one of these teams will be hoisting the first English soccer trophy of 2016 in February. While the Capital One Cup is admittedly the least prestigious trophy of the English soccer season but it’s still big for those who are still alive. This can mean a great motivational boost for teams going for an EPL title or to make the top four. And for others lower in the table, this is the arguably the easiest chance to win a trophy.
Stoke vs. Liverpool – Leg 1, Tuesday January 5 and Leg 2, Tuesday January 26
While it would appear that Liverpool is a better and more talented team than Stoke, both teams are on opposite sides of the momentum spectrum. Liverpool is midway in a four game away stretch and also need to play Arsenal and Manchester United. With this stretch and Liverpool’s inconsistent form, this is probably the worst possible time for them to play these games.
Stoke may have had a similar inconsistent stretch but they are scoring goals. This isn’t the stereotypical Stoke that we knew for years. After winning six points in a 48 hour stretch, Stoke lost 2-1 this past weekend to West Brom. Stoke is certainly going into this game with more momentum and a healthier team, but Liverpool pulled out a 6-1 win to Southampton in similar circumstances. Sometimes teams just act differently when they know a trophy is so close.
Everton vs. Manchester City – Leg 1, Wednesday January 6 and Leg 2, Wednesday January 27
Manchester City is in a fight for an EPL title and despite drawing and losing to positional rivals Leicester City and Arsenal, Manchester City have won everything else since December 5. It may not be the most effective way to win given that Vincent Kompany is still out injured, but Manchester City are winning and nobody really cares how you win at the end of the day.
You could say Everton wants to win this tournament more than any team. At this point, all four teams want to win but Everton, and especially Roberto Martinez, he needs this win in order to save his job. Out of the managers, Mark Hughes and Jurgen Klopp aren’t going anywhere and unless he wins at least a treble, Manuel Pellegrini is finished at Manchester City. In Martinez’s situation, Everton is 11th in the table, consistently underperform and have plenty of issues on defending and scoring on set pieces. Martinez’s job is in jeopardy but if he gets Everton their first trophy in 20 years, all will be forgiven.
Regardless of who advances to the Capital One Cup Final on February 28, there will be storylines to create among every potential matchup. A Liverpool/Man City matchup will feature the two highest ranked teams and provide a chance for Man City to avenge their 4-1 beatdown to Liverpool. A Everton/Stoke matchup will give two teams who don’t typically win trophies a shot at the title. And, last but certainly not least, a Liverpool/Everton matchup will give us a Merseyside Derby at Wembley Stadium for the fifth time in Derby history and the first since the 2012 FA Cup semifinal. It’s going to be an exciting conclusion to the Capital One Cup.