The EFL Cup kicks off with an intriguing battle between Championship sides Huddersfield and Middlesbrough, while Sunderland faces Crewe in a quick turnaround after a Sunday league game. Both matches offer exciting prospects and potential upsets. Let's take a closer look at these matchups and our top betting tips for the night.

Huddersfield v Middlesbrough Tuesday, 7:00pm

A rarity in the first round of the EFL Cup is two Championship sides being paired together. That is exactly the case here as Huddersfield Town entertain Middlesbrough, with a spot in the second stage of the competition up for grabs. Like most clubs at this very early stage, the cup really isn’t of great importance, certainly not until they progress a few rounds at the very least. Something both of these teams did was open up their league campaign with a defeat, so they have that to try and bounce back from.

Team news will always be key on EFL Cup First Round day, but we can safely assume that most managers, at least in the Championship, will look to ‘utilise their squads’. This game is sandwiched between two league clashes, with takes greater significance at this stage, but it is team news which is where I’ve come to the bet I have landed on.

Neil Warnock’s side have been tipped to struggle this season. They haven’t the finance to significantly strengthen their team, and that has been the case in the off-season, with only sub-keeper Chris Maxwell signing on a free and Tom Edwards joining on loan from Stoke. The squad is limited and not full of depth, but Warnock has all but confirmed he will heavily rotate here. Even so, some of their defending against Plymouth at the weekend left a lot to be desired, with Warnock himself even digging out individual players for criticism. When speaking to ITV after the Plymouth game he said ‘we haven’t got the squad to really have a go for the cup’, which to me is a bit of a white flag already.

They come up against a Middlesbrough side who I successfully backed against when Millwall left with the spoils. I just felt they were going into the game incredibly light going forward, and two goals on target from 14 shots says it all. Chuba Akpom was an unused sub there, but there is a chance he’ll get some minutes here at Huddersfield. Michael Carrick is still searching for new recruits, so the squad is not where he would like it to be now. However, they’ve still added some fresh faces and players are starting to recover from injury. Boro don’t have a big enough squad to make 10 or 11 changes, so it’ll still retain some quality. Even so, likely incoming replacements such as Martin Payero, Isaiah Jones and Samuel Silvera means quality is high, plus the likelihood of Akpom, Jonny Howson and Josh Coburn getting game time.

I can’t touch Huddersfield here with the manager writing off their chances. Even if the fringe players will look to impress, those ahead of them in the pecking order at the weekend suggests those behind them aren’t quite at the level Warnock wants. Middlesbrough likely win this game especially, but team news is everything, so for now I’d advise the away side at -0.25 at 1.83 with 888Sport. Even if they drew and this goes to extra time, it isn’t a complete losing bet. One point stake advised.

Sunderland v Crewe Tuesday, 7.45pm

I must admit I had to have a double take when I saw that this game was being played on a Tuesday night. The reason being is that Sunderland had a 5 pm kick-off on Sunday at home to Ipswich, meaning there is only around 48 hours between the two games. Therefore, we know for a fact that any player that was in Tony Mowbray’s starting eleven for that game will not be for the Crewe clash. Given their limited squad in terms of size and also injuries, we practically know what XI Mowbray will go for.

Crewe will be the opposition and it is just the kind of banana skin that cup ties often throw up. You’d suspect Crewe will be inspired to travel up to the Stadium of Light, a place where any lower league player would relish playing their football. They’ll be facing a Sunderland XI that won’t have ever played a competitive game together, which also involves some new signings still settling in and some only just recovering from injuries. Crewe progressing here would not be a big surprise in my eyes, knowing Mowbray will limit minutes to the likes of Patrick Roberts, Jack Clarke, Hemir and Dan Neil, opening the door for the likes of Bradley Dack, Alex Pritchard, Jewison Bennette and young Chris Rigg a chance to impress from the off.

Whilst the Mackems will make wholesale changes, it will still be a strong eleven all things considered. This is not the youth team being thrown into action here, and they should still get the job done against a spirited Crewe side, but if they turn up it should be the Championship team progressing. I’m not sure the hosts deserve to be a price in the region of 1.38, but at the end of the day this is a Championship team at home to a League Two outfit. Shocks will happen in round one though, and I’m not touching any result market.

I’m still shocking this game isn’t being played on a Wednesday, but the benefit is that we realistically know who Sunderland will start with. As such we can target the Goalscorer market and look for a decent price on a player likely to start, but rarely does so.

The man I have selected is one I have already mentioned above, and I really like the 3.90 on offer from William Hill on Jewison Bennette to score anytime. Sunderland are lacking centre forwards, and Mowbray himself said he is looking for more bodies here. Ross Stewart is injured, whilst Hemir won’t start like he did against Ipswich. Normally a winger, Bennette featured a lot in pre-season as a striker, prior to Hemir signing. He netted two goals in friendly games, showing he knows where the back of the net is. Against lower league opposition, I fancy him strongly at this price, which certainly won’t last once the teams are announced. The Costa Rican international was an unused sub on Sunday, so a long stint on the pitch is anticipated with Mowbray hoping he doesn’t have to call for the big guns later in the game. Half-point stake advised.

Tips

  • Huddersfield v Middlesbrough – Middlesbrough -0.25 (1.83 888Sport)
  • Sunderland v Crewe – Jewison Bennette Anytime Scorer (3.90 William Hill)
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