The Capital One Cup second round makes its merry return this week with the 12 Premier League sides unconcerned by European distractions joining the 36 winners from the first round.
Few early rounds of the League Cup have produced as many upsets or goals as at this stage last season. West Ham exited on penalties to Sheffield United, Leicester were dumped out by League Two side Shrewsbury, Sheffield Wednesday turfed out Burnley, Aston Villa lost to Leyton Orient, QPR fell to Burton and, most memorably of all, Manchester United were on the receiving end of a 4-0 defeat to League One MK Dons.
In total, not a single game was 0-0 after 90 minutes, while 11 of the 25 encounters featured three goals or more. During the previous season, 15 second-round matches boasted three or more goals.
So whether it’s due to excessive rotation, sides still getting used to new teammates, or simply an excuse for managers to permit some attacking freedom without the risk of losing valuable league points, the early rounds of the Capital One Cup often reward the over 2.5 and over 3.5 goals bet.
With that in mind, we’ve picked out three ties that look primed to continue the goal-frenzy trend:
Hartlepool v Bournemouth
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side were unfortunate not to pick up any points in their first two Premier League encounters, and one could forgive Cherries fans for starting to wonder just how last season’s Championship top scorers had yet to find the net.
But then it all clicked at West Ham with a thrilling 4-3 victory highlighting the attacking talent that scored just two goals shy of a ton in the second tier last season.
Howe will no doubt make some changes with Premier League survival in mind but, given that the dream of promotion didn’t stop his side scoring 11 goals on the way to a fifth-round exit to Liverpool last time out, there is no reason to doubt they will show similar attacking intent this term.
The fact that Hartlepool, fifth in League Two after three wins from four, will show no fear can only help in the search for over 3.5 goals at 31/20.
Burton v Middlesbrough
Aitor Karanka’s side demonstrated a penchant for finding the back of the net in this competition last season, putting three past Oldham in the first round, before doing the same against Preston in the second. They even managed to score two goals and 12 penalties against Liverpool in the fourth, yet incredibly that wasn’t enough to progress following an epic shoot-out.
Burton dumped out QPR at this stage in 2014/15 and will be looking to make a similar mark on the competition this time round, with six goals in four League One games since promotion providing a good starting block. Over 2.5 goals is 10/11.
QPR v Carlisle
QPR’s bid to bounce straight back to the Premier League has begun in swashbuckling style. While changes are likely to be made as fringe players look to stake their claim, boss Chris Ramsey will surely encourage his reserves to replicate the attacking mentality of the first team.
They have already banged in nine league goals, making them the Championship’s top scorers after they followed a stunning 3-2 win at Wolves with a 4-2 victory at home to Rotherham.
League Two’s Carlisle may not exactly be sitting pretty in 20th place with three draws and a loss from four, but their seven goals make them the joint-fifth highest scoring side in division. While in the long term, it means that Keith Curle will be confident about the Cumbrians climbing the table, in the short term, it renders this tie a prize pick for over 3.5 goals at 8/5.
MK Dons v Cardiff
Last year’s second round headline-grabbers MK Dons have made an impressively composed start to their debut season in the Championship, lying in fourth after two wins and a draw from their opening four games.
Standing three places and one point behind them is Cardiff, who are coming into the game on the back of a comfortable 2-0 victory over Wolves.
With safety the main concern for the Dons and promotion the name of the game for Cardiff, expect rotation and an evening of opportunity to be the theme of the night at stadiummk. Recent history shows that is often a scenario more suited to goalscorers than defenders – over 2.5 goals is 10/11.