The semi-finals of the League Cup kick off on Tuesday evenings, with Stoke City and Liverpool getting proceedings underway at the Britannia Stadium.
Everton host Manchester City in the first leg of their last-four clash on Wednesday evening and it is Manuel Pellgrini’s side, who lifted the trophy two years ago who are favourites to do so again this time around.
The Citizens are also at the head of the market in the Premier League and the FA Cup, while they also have the last sixteen of the Champions League – a competition that has so far eluded them – at the forefront of their minds.
While Everton, who are the only side left in the tournament yet to win it, will also fancy their chances in the FA Cup they will see this as their best chance to end their twenty-one-year silverware drought while with so many sides in a closely ran race for the top six it may also provide their best chance of getting in to Europe next season.
Their manager Roberto Martinez has pedigree in the English cup competitions, having guided former club Wigan Athletic to an unlikely FA Cup triumph two years ago, when the Latics beat the odds to triumph of Manchester City at Wembley.
This is also Stoke’s best chance of winning a competition since they were surprise contenders in the 2011 FA Cup final, which they lost to a Manchester City side then managed by Roberto Martinez.
The Potters have reached the final of the League Cup twice before, beating Chelsea in 1972 and losing to Leicester City in 1964 and have been recently been playing a brand of football that warrants success.
At 9/1, Mark Hughes’ side are the outsiders in the betting market though with Liverpool inconsistent of late they are certainly worth considering.
While the Reds won when the sides met at the Britannia Stadium on the opening day of the season, the hosts 6-1 demolition at the same venue is still fresh in the memory and if they can take a lead to Anfield later this month they have every chance of making the final.
A stitch in time
However, no team has won this competition more than Liverpool who sealed the most recent of their eight triumphs in 2012 in Kenny Dalglsih’s second spell in charge.
Injuries may hinder them this time around, with Christian Benteke the only fit striker for Tuesday night’s first leg though if they can keep what would be a third clean sheet in four, they will themselves fancy their chances.
All four possible finals would be mouth-watering prospects, with Everton vs Liverpool arguably the pick of the potential clashes though for my money it is Stoke who offer the best value.
Who will reach next month’s Capital One Cup final?