The 92 Football and Premier League clubs will compete in the 56th League Cup this season, with the Final taking place at Wembley on February 26th 2017.
The winners of the League Cup qualify for a place in the Europa League, unless they have qualified for the Champions League through their position in the league, in which case the Europa League place goes to the next highest-placed team from the Premier League that hasn’t already qualified for Europe.
The League Cup itself has grown in reputation in recent years, with a number of the top clubs taken the competition more seriously. In years gone by, the top Premier League clubs made a point of using the League Cup as a competition to give the kids a run out, which lead to a lot of shocks and giant killings. The early 00’s saw teams such as Middlesbrough, Leicester City and Blackburn Rovers winning the Cup as the bigger teams remained disinterested in mounting a serious challenge.
However more recently, teams such as Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City have gradually took the competition more seriously, leading to more likely names being engraved on the Cup in recent years. Chelsea are the current holders after they beat Tottenham 2-0 in last season's final to complete their fifth League Cup win.
Liverpool remain the most successful club in the competitions history with eight wins and most recently lifted the trophy in 2012. Chelsea now join Aston Villa in second place with five League Cup wins, but its nearly been 20 years since the latter had their name on the Cup.
Most Successful Teams In League Cup History
Liverpool – 8 Wins
Aston Villa, Chelsea – 5 Wins
Manchester United, Nottingham Forest, Tottenham Hotspur – 4 Wins
Leicester City, Manchester City – 3 Wins
Arsenal, Birmingham City, Norwich City, Wolves – 2 Wins
As you’d expect in any domestic Cup competitions, there is a history of giant killing. Giant killings in the League Cup are less well remembered compared to the feats lower league teams have achieved in the FA Cup, but that’s not to say that there hasn’t been many notable upsets.
In 2001–02, the then holders Liverpool were beaten 2–1 at Anfield by Grimsby Town and were then humbled again on the same ground by Northampton Town in 2010. Grimsby recorded another giant killing of their own in 2005 when they knocked out Tottenham Hotspur. In 2012–13, Bradford City of League Two knocked out Premier League sides Wigan and Arsenal as they made it to the semi-final where they disposed of another top tier side Aston Villa 4–3 on aggregate to reach the final. And just last year, League One side MK Dons beat the odds to defeat Manchester United 4-0 in arguably the greatest cup upset to date.
Since this is a midweek competition, squad rotation does play a role in games as clubs look to balance league and sometimes European schedules. This is why most bookmakers opt for the best squads rather than the best teams when determining their favourites. It’s no surprise then that Chelsea are placed among the front runners to defend their title. Their squad is the envy of most Premier League managers, with stars like Oscar and John Obi Mikel regularly warming the bench when they would walk into any other starting XI.
The theme of big squads winning the competition is one that runs through the history of its recent winners. Manchester City’s win in 2014 was in no small part down to their squad depth and followed Liverpool’s win in 2012, where Kenny Dalglish had spent big on a number of English players like Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing with squad players such as Jonjo Shelvey and Martin Kelly also making crucial contributions. Manchester United won the competition in 2009 and 2010 and at that time had a big squad that was accustomed to dealing with an intense fixture list due to their Champions League commitments.
It is no surprise then to see the likes of Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man Utd favoured by the bookies as these clubs have all bought big in the summer to deal with European campaigns, which makes them well suited to go a long way in the League Cup.
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