Two teams, for different reasons, who are not having the best of seasons so far. Sunderland have been mired in a relegation fight from the start and have already got rid of one manager. Utd have started poorly in their title defence and although they recorded a couple of wins pre Christmas, have stuttered again in recent weeks including a 4rd round exit at home to Swansea in the FA Cup.
What this means is that the league cup (also known as the mickey mouse cup, worthless cup and milk cup) is suddenly a very important piece of silverware. Although much derided, it does have the power to focus attention on something other than shonky league performances, and gain a bit of momentum whilst other teams are resting (of course if you lose, it's actually a fixture congestion nightmare aligned to a competition no one wants to win).
Let’s make one thing clear though; Moyes will not want to lose this match. He's not built up sufficient good will with performances or results this season to allow for the marginalisation of a trophy, not to mention the distinct lack of medals on his personal CV. So expect a strong team to be fielded, or at least one on paper that should be able to beat Sunderland.
For Poyet this game is a welcome respite from the battle against relegation in the league. That said, how welcome a match against a team Sunderland have failed to beat in their last 20 games (last win on Wearside was back in 2000, coincidently in the league cup).
At least Sunderland have the benefit of some experience with this situation. Craig Gardner and Sebastian Larsson were key members of the Birmingham team that won the league cup and were relegated back in 2011.
Maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves trying to pick a winner anyway. As the first of two legs there’s a lot of football to be played before the finalist is known.
What we expect is for Utd to come out strong, looking to put the whole tie to bed in order to play a second string for the return leg in a fortnight. Whether that's possible with their current squad, or the way that squad is playing, remains to be seen.
In terms of odds, the bookies have Utd as the outright favourite both to win this match, and to go through overall. Utd are best priced at 8/11 with PaddPower, while Sunderland can be backed at 47/10 at Unibet.
So with the odds so short on the favourite, and Sunderland having little hope (that said, they did dispatch Chelsea in the last round) where are we going to get our betting value from? Are there any special football offers for the Sunderland vs. Manchester Utd match?
Glad you asked, yes there are and we’ve noted some of the best below
- 138.com have money back if there’s an own goal in the match.
- Betfair allow you to select your own cashback refund from a selection of triggers (goal in the first ten minutes, Utd lead 3-0 at any point, red card at any point, match ends 0-0 or Utd win 2-1 or 3-1)
- PaddyPower will refund losing bets on many markets if Sunderland win
- Ladbrokes have red card redemption
- Betfred will refund if the match ends 1-1, and also have the popular double delight and hat-trick heaven
You can find all the latest offers from around the web on the Today’s Offers page here.
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Sky sports 1 will be showing the match live from 19:30. You can also stream it live from Bet365 provided you have a positive balance in your account.
Highlights of the match will be shown on BBC1, Wednesday 8th of January at 23:15.
We've also done a preview of the Manchester City vs West Ham first leg for your reading and betting pleasure.