Saturday, February 4, 2023

3 Things Southampton Need To Do To Pull Off An Upset In EFL Cup Final

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Sarthak Mondal
Armchair analyst. Engineering dropout by choice. Sports Management student.

The final of the English Football League Cup, featuring 92 professional clubs in England, is scheduled to take place on Sunday, the 26th day of February at the New Wembley Stadium in London. Southampton will be taking on Manchester United in the final. As expected, Manchester United will be starting as favorites against the Saints.

But, cup nights are never short of excitement and surprises, and Claude Puel will be hoping to deny Jose Mourinho’s men their second silverware of the season by pulling off an upset. Both the sides are expected to field a strong side in the final of the tournament.

Southampton pulled off an upset in the semifinals of the tournament, defeating Liverpool in both the legs and here are a three things that might come in handy, if they want to do the same in the final.

STRONG DEFENCE

Manchester United seemed to have regained their old form and Henrikh Mkhitaryan is now finding his feet in the English football. The front three featuring Anthony Martial, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Juan Mata has been ripping off opposition defenders with their speed, accurate passing and finishing.

Southampton have to keep their defence tight and break up all the passes from the central midfield to thwart the danger of United’s attackers. With Mkhitaryan a doubt, there might be a bit of rustiness about the team and if the Saints can be solid and tenacious at the back, Jose’s side could struggle for openings.

WAIT FOR THE BREAK

Given the pace Southampton have in their attack, they can wait and absorb all the pressure to catch United on the break. It is likely that the Saints will be playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which is likely to frustrate the opposition attackers and with the passage of time, Mourinho may commit more men forward to get a result before full time.

It has been noticed that United generally commit 8 players while going on the attack in the final quarter of the game. If Southampton manage to keep a clean sheet or the scores level till that time, they definitely have the opportunity to score and land the sucker punch.

SHOOT, SHOOT AND SHOOT

It is very difficult to score past David de Gea, who is currently one of the best goalkeepers in football. Hence, it is unlikely that he will be caught off guard with only one or two shots on target. With the shaky United defence, the Southampton frontline, comprising Dusan Tadic and Nathan Redmond must look to take shots on the goal whenever presented with the chance, with the hope of scoring one.

There are generally little or no upsets in the Cup finals, but neutrals will be happy if Southampton can pull off an upset against Manchester United, which will be good in the bigger interests of the game.

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