Can Newcastle United realistically win the EFL Cup?
Things have been going pretty well for Newcastle United at the moment. Their Premier League quality squad is sitting pretty three points clear at the top of the Championship, and a 6-0 demolition of Preston put the Magpies into the quarter finals of the EFL Cup.
Rafael Benitez’s side are far too good to be playing in the Championship. Considering the squads that Sunderland, Hull City and Swansea have, Newcastle have more than a good enough squad to get promoted and thrive in the Premier League.
Dwight Gayle is a brilliant Championship level striker. Jamaal Lascelles is a classy young centre back and an inspirational leader. Mo Diame and Jonjo Shelvey have thrived in the Premier League before. Aleksandr Mitrovic is a very feisty character but also far too talented to be a second choice striker in the second tier.
Now, the Magpies are in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup and have a favourable draw in the shape of Premier League strugglers Hull. They may be a division above, but their depleted squad and lack of form make the quarter final tie a very winnable match for Newcastle.
As for the rest of the competition, the nature of the EFL Cup suggests that Newcastle may have a decent chance of getting beyond the semi-finals should they see off Hull. Manchester United and Southampton are both in the Europa League, and may continue to play weakened sides as the tournament goes on to avoid injuries to their first team. Arsenal, being in the Champions League, are in a very similar position.
This does not mean that these teams are not a threat, their second teams are still probably better than Newcastle, but playing against a side for whom the cup isn’t a priority could represent an excellent chance for Benitez’s team to progress.
Of the other teams left in the tournament, West Ham are playing Manchester United in the quarters and are out of form. Leeds United would be second favourites to Newcastle should they overcome Liverpool. As for Liverpool, they are the team that Newcastle will really want to avoid. Joint top of the Premier League and without European competition to distract them, the Reds will be heavy favourites against Newcastle.
Newcastle not only have a good squad and favourable circumstances, but they also have the ace of Rafael Benitez up their sleeve. As Liverpool fans will fondly remember, Benitez is well adept at guiding underdogs through a tricky cup competition. Playing well and with a Champions League manager at the helm, the Magpies should have the street smarts to get through some close games.
Obviously, Newcastle are far from favourites for the competition, but now we are down to the last eight, they have a real shot at possibly getting to Wembley, and maybe even lifting the EFL Cup. It will be a big shock, but don’t rule it out.
Featured Image: All rights reserved Kay Onifade
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