Who Will Lift The Carling Cup?

On Sunday the final of the Carling Cup will see Aston Villa and Manchester United battling for the first major silverware of the season at Wembley. The current holders, Manchester United will be looking at keeping a firm hold on this Cup while Villa will be keen to wrest it away from one of the “big four” teams and reap the rewards of a gloriously successful season in domestic cup campaigns.

According to the online betting activity, Manchester United are the odds on favourites to win but Villa have the grit and determination to rise to the occasion. Villa winning the Carling Cup would be a tremendous achievement for Villa and would serve to silence the critics and help them gain recognition as a major force in English football.

When the two sides met earlier this month the game ended in a one all draw but Villa did pull off that shock win at Old Trafford in December. In fact that was the only time United have lost a League game at Old Trafford so far this season. Can Villa give United another bloody nose on Sunday? As the final will take place at Wembley the worry must be that the sense of occasion may overwhelm Villa who have not played in a Cup Final there since 2000 when Chelsea won the FA Cup. Villa may be seen as the underdogs for this encounter – will that suit Martin O’Neill? He probably wouldn’t want it any other way! Villa are clearly a team that are going places and it looks a good bet that they will be playing football in Europe next season.

One thing that could work to Villa’s advantage is the fact that Ferguson’s Red Devils may have an eye on bigger things, such as the Premier League title and the Champions League. As things stand they are hot on the heels of Chelsea in the race for Premier title and they have that small matter of the UEFA Champions League second leg against AC Milan on the horizon too.

It will also be interesting to see whether Ferguson will be tempted to select some youngsters in his squad for the Wembley game. In the past he has used domestic cup competitions to give them a taste of the big time. Look at the sides that have been fielded in the earlier rounds of this competition in the lead up to the final and you see players like Welbeck, Fabio, Gibson and Macheda. Will any of them see action in the Final? Well, OK, Welbeck will not be playing as he is on loan to Preston but the others may get a look in.

So far Gibson looks a really good prospect, given his record last season. In 2009, he played in every round in the Carling Cup including the final (which United won). Could he end up with a second consecutive Cup Winners medal? The fact that Manchester United will have to cope with the absence of Wes Anderson and Rio Ferdinand would seem to make this more likely. Wes Anderson sustained a knee injury in the West Ham game midweek and is unlikely to figure in the Final. Ferdinand is definitely out because of a back injury.

For those who like to bet on football, the game offers some interesting possibilities. Will Villa pull off a Wembley win? It would be considered an upset and the odds on it happening are 7/4. Will Rooney continue his extraordinary goal scoring spree? Football betting sites are offering 9/2 that he will be the first goal scorer of the afternoon and 28/1 that he will score a hat-trick. The odds on Agbonlahor opening the scoring are 15/2.

Certainly this year’s final is attracting a great deal of interest among impartial observers. For example the odds on a 1-0 victory for Villa are 8/1 so a bet on the Carling Cup Final may prove too great a temptation to resist for punters who are seeking value for money.

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