Sheffield United v Spurs: Capital One Cup
It’s Sheffield United v Spurs in Capital One Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg action tonight from Bramall Lane…
The Blades of Sheffield United have sliced and diced some big names in cup competitions of late. Nigel Clough has masterminded wins over QPR, Fulham and Aston Villa in the FA Cup, and his charges have seen off West Ham and Southampton this season in the League Cup.
A two-legged victory over Spurs would be Clough’s biggest scalp so far. United dug in superbly last week as they lost 1-0 at White Hart Lane. They sprang back into their required shape with speed and diligence, they maintained their discipline,and Clough was even disappointed that a better result wasn’t achieved.
The key to United’s recent cup success has been keeping things tight and being defensively resolute. If you put those five cup shocks I mentioned together, the Blades kept three clean sheets and conceded just two goals.
At the other end of the pitch things aren’t so encouraging. The Yorkshire outfit have netted just 30 goals in 24 League One games, and of the top ten sides in the division only Fleetwood have scored fewer. Including last week’s first leg, United have scored just once in their last three games. They will need to score at least twice to progress without a penalty shootout, something they’ve done just five times in their last 20 games.
- Tottenham have won all three previous League Cup encounters with Sheffield United.
- In addition to their first leg victory earlier this month, Spurs won 2-1 at White Hart Lane in the third round in 1970 and 2-0 at Bramall Lane in the fourth round in 1990.
- However, they are winless in their last five visits to the Blades (D2, L3).
- The Blades have won five of their last six League Cup home games against higher division opposition.
- They are in the semi-finals for the first time in 12 years. They lost 3-2 on aggregate to Liverpool in 2003 – their only previous appearance at this stage.
- They have beaten five Premier League clubs in the last 12 months: Aston Villa and Fulham in last season’s run to the FA Cup semi-finals, and West Ham, Southampton and QPR this season.
- The Blades have only lost three of their 21 cup games under Nigel Clough.
- They have only kept one clean sheet in their last seven league and cup games.
- Spurs have not kept a clean sheet in their last 11 away games in all competitions.
- Tottenham have won 12 of their last 13 League Cup games against lower division sides – with their only defeat coming in the second leg of a semi-final against Burnley in 2009 which Spurs won on aggregate despite losing on the night.
- Spurs are vying to reach their first final for six years. They were runners-up in 2009 (losing on penalties to Manchester United), a year after winning it for the fourth time.
- All five of Andros Townsend’s goals this season have come from penalties.
After making eight changes for the weekend’s FA Cup draw with Preston, Clough is expected to select a similar line-up to last week. Kieran Wallace and Che Adams are both available again after they were cup-tied.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has described this as the biggest game of the season for his side, and he is bang on. The Lilywhites haven’t been to a major final since they were beaten on penalties by Manchester United in the 2009 final of this competition, so reaching Wembley would be an early endorsement of Pochettino’s reign. At a club where managers can quickly find themselves skating on wafer-thin ice, such boosts are welcome.
Spurs have been further focused by Saturday’s painful FA Cup exit to Leicester City. Tottenham led 1-0 with seven minutes to go, but lost 2-1, with keeper Michel Vorm feebly letting in a ghastly stoppage-time winner. The Dutch custodian has been given a vote of confidence by Pochettino, and he faces a test of nerve at Bramall Lane.
Tottenham’s Premier League away form should give them plenty of encouragement ahead of this game. They have won five of their ten road matches in the league, despite only scoring 14 goals on their travels.
Rising star Harry Kane has been enjoying his away games this term, as he has netted seven goals in 12 road matches in all competitions. As such he is an understandably short 1.78 in the To Score market. Kane will return to the starting XI as a host of key players are restored to the side, but Nacer Chadli (compassionate leave) and Nabil Bentaleb (Africa Cup of Nations) remain absent.
This is Sheffield United’s sternest cup test of the past two seasons, and I think their adventure will come to an end. Spurs dominated possession in the first leg without much penetration, but at some stage the hosts will have to open up to try and erase that first-leg deficit. That’s when Tottenham’s flair players like Christian Eriksen can come alive.
If the tie is still in the balance in the closing stages, Spurs have shown they can finish games strongly. Four of their Premier League away wins have come via goals in the 89th minute or later, so there are no worries about their fitness fading.
People are excited about Sheffield United because of their list of scalps, but 1.87 is a great price for a top-six Premier League team fielding a strong side to win away to a League One team.
The market is more or less split down the middle here, and I’m not surprised. Sheffield United will try to keep things close before a late assault, and it’s worth noting that 14 of United’s last 18 games have featured fewer than three goals. However, if Spurs can get a demoralising opener, they might be able to catch the hosts on the break and run away with it.
The first-leg winner from Andros Townsend didn’t come until the 74th minute, and I suspect this game could follow a similar pattern. Pochettino says Spurs will play aggressively, but with the tie so tight, neither team may risk much early on.
You could back 0-0 in the Correct Score market at 13.5 and Cash Out when the game starts to open up or you could of course double up and go for Spurs in the HT/FT market at 3.8,
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