England's domestic cup competition returns this week, and the bookies have forecast the trophy being claimed by one of the big three
Manchester United @ 4/1
Being thumped by their local rivals in the league hasn't shifted the odds for the Red Devils in this competition. Sir Alex Ferguson's side have historically used the Carling Cup to blood youngsters in the early rounds before naming a stronger XI as they approach the last couple of games. Despite this controversial tactic, United have still lifted the cup three times in the last six years.
They face 500/1 outsiders Aldershot in the next round and will be confident of progressing to the quarter-finals with relative ease. The current squad at Old Trafford seems to lack the depth of previous years, and considering the big names left in this competition, a third appearance in the final in three years is far from assured.
Manchester City @ 5/1
Manchester City are not far behind their neighbours as second favourites. Roberto Mancini has a tremendous squad at his disposal, which means even a full reserve team would give most sides in this competition a run for their money.
The blue half of Manchester may have celebrated their first trophy of the new era in last season's FA Cup but they face a tricky away tie at struggling Wolves.
City may look a good value bet to be adding to their silverware cabinet in February, but bear in mind they are competing in four competitions. That will surely take its toll on even the biggest and best squads, with the EPL and Champions League taking priority.
Chelsea @ 6/1
Chelsea last lifted this trophy in 2007, which was their second triumph in three years under former boss Jose Mourinho. New coach Andre Villas-Boas named a strong team against Fulham, a match in which the Blues required penalties to progress.
They face another all-Premier League tie in the next round as they are hosted by Everton at Goodison Park. David Moyes has also named good teams in the past in this cup, and, after a demoralising loss against QPR this weekend, Chelsea will be forced into changes.
The 6/1 is a big price considering the talented group the Portuguese has at Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea have fallen foul of lower-ranked Premier League sides before (Blackburn and Newcastle in the last two seasons). With another 11 top-flight clubs left at this stage, their route to a potential final is likely to contain at least one more if they manage to get the better of Everton.
Carling Cup Odds (William Hill)
Man Utd @ 3/1
Man City @ 4/1
Liverpool @ 6/1
Chelsea @ 6/1
Arsenal @ 13/2
Stoke @ 16/1
Everton @ 20/1
Newcastle @ 20/1
Blackburn @ 28/1
Bolton @ 33/1
Wolves @ 33/1
Southampton @ 40/1
Cardiff @ 50/1
Burnley @ 80/1
Crystal Palace @ 80/1
Aldershot @ 500/1
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Jim Knight is a sports enthusiast and has been tipping football games since he was old enough to place a bet. He is a Leicester City fan, writer and member of the We Are Going Up Podcast
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