If ever a match highlighted the difficulty in punting on the Competition Formerly Known as the Rumbelows Cup, then it is the meeting of Leeds United and Southampton at Elland Road on Tuesday evening.
Here we have two big clubs with rich and prestigious cup pedigree and it is the sort of tie that in years gone by would have whet the appetite, with talk of the ‘romance of the cup’ and speculation about a ‘giant killing’.
But neither team could care less about this match, could they? Like most clubs these days, they treat the Capital One Cup like something they stood in (although it calling it the Capital One Cup hardly helps matters) and as such, it is hard to get excited about this match when the participants are turning up out of obligation.
Quite when the majority of lower-league teams stopped caring about the domestic cup competitions I’m not entirely sure, but it is one of the many ills that inflict the modern game: why wouldn’t a club as big as Leeds want to do well in the cup? Why wouldn’t Southampton, a Premier League club as it stands, want to go as far as they can in every tournament that they enter?
The answer is money, of course, but the riches of the Premier League have devalued everything. Leeds are only bothered about gaining promotion (and on the cheap, by the looks of Cuddly Ken Bates’ behaviour since taking over the club). Having done just that, Southampton are only bothered about staying there (although you wouldn’t think so by the way they are defending).
So this match is meaningless. It doesn’t matter. Even the fans, those loyal enough to spend their hard-earned on a match they don’t really want to spend money on, have been so indoctrinated to believe that the riches of the top flight are all that matters, that even they aren’t bothered if their team goes through or not. If they win, all well and good. If they lose, ah well, let’s concentrate on the league.
And if they don’t care about the match, then why should we? The prices with bwin are as follows: Leeds are 7/5, Southampton are 17/10 and the draw is 12/5. But I would suggest that anybody putting more than the spare change found down the back of their sofa on this wants their head testing.
Because apart from anything else, this would be a tough match to call anyhow, but with both Neil Warnock and Nigel Adkins promising to ring the changes, it is nigh-on impossible to form a firm opinion. Actually, I say Warnock and Adkins, but they care so little for this match that they both sent their assistants out to do the pre-match talking.
Warnock did break the habit of a lifetime by picking a very strong team in the last round, but that was against Everton in front of the TV cameras and he will be reverting to type, while Adkins will play fringe players and youngsters, as he has done in the previous rounds against Stevenage and Sheffield Wednesday.
So do we take any notice of form? Leeds are 11th in the Championship, Southampton are 19th in the Premier League, so neither are winning too many games. United’s last four games have all seen two goals or less. Saints’ last four games have seen 16 goals.
No matter where you look, there are no clues as to how this is going to go. Southampton have won five of the last six meetings, including both last season in their promotion-winning campaign. They are obviously the better side, but you’d have to see the exact team news before plumping for the 17/10.
In fact, if either manager plays a stronger than expected team then go with that side and take the odds against price, but as it stands now I’d advise the 12/5 on the draw.
It is the biggest price of the three and therefore the value, but whatever you do, keep your stake to a minimum, because you’ll only be kicking yourself if you lose a sizable amount on this most unpredictable of matches.