The Capital One Cup has often proved to be a punters’ graveyard down the years and as the Premier League giants enter at the third-round stage this week, it will be intriguing to see if this trend comes to the fore again.
There are countless examples of big teams making wholesale changes to their line-ups with one eye on greater challenges ahead and promptly being dumped out of the competition by a lower-league opponent fired up to claim a major scalp.
At news.bwin.com/en/, we always try to guide our readers to ensure they are not stung in this way and that is the case as another potential giant-killing, on paper at least, arrives on Tuesday evening as Sunderland travel to MK Dons.
The Dons are flying high in League One under the stewardship of impressive young boss Karl Robinson and come into the game buoyed by a 4-1 drubbing of Bury at Gigg Lane over the weekend.
Norwich City fans will not need reminding that in the second round of the Capital One Cup last year, MK Dons rocked up to Carrow Road and departed with an incredible 4-0 triumph.
The Northern Irishman has a proud record in the Capital One Cup and he must surely see this competition as the perfect opportunity to land the silverware the club’s fans have been craving ever since the Jim Montgomery-inspired FA Cup final triumph over Leeds in 1973.
Robinson’s men also stunned Championship outfit Blackburn Rovers a few short weeks ago to seal this clash with Sunderland, so it is fair to say that they will not be overawed by the challenge facing them.
And with the easy assumption being that the Black Cats will make sweeping changes to the team that drew 1-1 with West Ham on Saturday, punters could be forgiven for being interested in MK Dons’ odds of 23/10 to cause an upset inside 90 minutes (the draw is the same price).
However, the truth is quite the opposite, as anyone who has followed Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill’s career will know that he is loath to tinker with his line-up unless absolutely necessary.
The Northern Irishman has a proud record in the Capital One Cup – he won it twice during his time with Leicester City – and he must surely see this competition as the perfect opportunity to land the silverware the club’s fans have been craving ever since the Jim Montgomery-inspired FA Cup final triumph over Leeds United way back in 1973.
Sunderland put out close to their best team in a 2-0 win over Morecambe in round two and just listening to O’Neill’s comments ahead of the clash with MK Dons has me reaching for a big wad of cash to place on the visitors at a cracking price of 11/10.
“We might have to make a couple of enforced changes. I really don’t like doing that if at all possible, especially this early in the season,” said O’Neill, probably in reference to Titus Bramble (match fitness) and Sebastian Larsson (hamstring), both of whom featured at Upton Park.
“I wouldn’t want to bow out meekly. Milton Keynes have nothing to lose and they want to play against a Barclays Premier League side. From our own viewpoint, I will reiterate that we will be as strong as we possibly can be.”
Message received loud and clear, thank you, Mr O’Neill.
The 11/10 on a visiting victory is worth backing on its own merits – it’s odds-against for a Premier League team facing a League One opponent, for goodness sake! – but for a larger potential return, the 23/10 on the Black Cats to be winning at both half-time and full-time could pay off.
Just two of the eight goals MK Dons have scored in their five home games so far this term have arrived before the interval and if Sunderland can grab an early goal, they should have more than enough quality to see the job through.
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