It's a quieter week for most teams, but not for the four who are involved in the English Football League Cup Semi Finals which have their First Legs scheduled for this week. First up is Manchester United who host Hull City on the Tuesday before Liverpool head to Southampton on Wednesday and both Manchester United and Liverpool will also have one eye on a huge Premier League game between the clubs which is going to be played on Sunday.
However at this stage of the League Cup, teams will be not be looking ahead to a Premier League game which is going to be played in a few days time, but will be looking to put themselves in a position to make the Second Leg a more comfortable outing and then earn a place at Wembley Stadium for the first piece of domestic silverware at the end of February.
Manchester United v Hull City Pick: The Manchester United form in the Cup competitions has been very good for most of the season and they have begun to take that momentum into the Premier League. Confidence feels like it is higher than any time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager in May 2013 and Jose Mourinho is going to pick a strong line up to keep the run of wins going.
None of the fans would want to lose that momentum prior to the huge Premier League game on Sunday when Manchester United host Liverpool. A 4-0 win over Reading kept the run going on Saturday and Manchester United will have a much stronger starting eleven for this League Cup Semi Final First Leg than they played on Saturday.
Ringing the changes is not really something Marco Silva can do at Hull City who have been battered by injuries to an already stretched squad. They could head into this First Leg with the likes of Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone having to play at centre half and it does not make for ideal preparation for this big game.
Goals have not been a problem for Manchester United in the Cup games this season and the four scored against Reading means they have reached that number in 4 of the 6 Cup games played at Old Trafford this season. This Hull City team have conceded at least three times in 3 of their last 5 away games and I do think Manchester United are going to come out to put themselves in a really strong position before the Second Leg in two weeks time.
I think Manchester United can do that here with the line ups that are expected and I think Marco Silva can be given a rude awakening to the challenges he faces as the new Hull City manager. I will back the home team to win by a big margin here and I will back them to cover the Asian Handicap.
Southampton v Liverpool Pick: The neutrals and the television companies would have already decided which two teams they would love to see compete for the League Cup Final in February, but the two other clubs in the competition won't take that lying down.
This is a huge moment for Southampton who have to feel they need to take a lead to Anfield in two weeks time for the Second Leg if they have a genuine chance of making it through to the Final next month. Last season Stoke City were beaten 0-1 at home by Liverpool and did recover that deficit at Anfield, but Liverpool are improved since then and it would be a huge test for Southampton to get back from behind without away goals counting double until the end of extra time.
Goals have been a problem for Southampton since Charlie Austin suffered a long-term injury and I think that might be a real issue for them in this League Cup Semi Final. Despite Sadio Mane being away at the African Cup of Nations, Liverpool do present a goal threat and so it is up to The Saints to find some rhythm in the final third.
A concern for Claude Puel has to be the amount of goals Southampton have been conceding of late and that is the angle I am looking to exploit in this League Cup Semi Final First Leg. While the layers feel it could be a tight game, I think Southampton will have to be a little more open than in a League game and that can contribute to opportunities at both ends.
Liverpool certainly have the firepower to create chances and score goals, while Southampton are a threat from set pieces against which defending has been a chore for Liverpool. They have played out a goalless draw earlier this season, but there were chances in that game and a first half goal could really open this one up.
The two previous games at St Mary's had both featured at least three goals and I have to think Southampton will give this a go on Wednesday with a Second Leg to come at Anfield. At odds against I will back there being three goals in this one.
MY PICKS: Manchester United - 2 Asian Handicap @ 1.76 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Southampton-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
December Final: 38-40, - 7.93 Units (153 Units Staked, - 5.18% Yield)
October Final: 29-41-2, - 21.23 Units (139 Units Staked, - 15.27% Yield)
Season 2015/16: 133-174-2, + 0.89 Units (669 Units Staked, + 0% Yield)