The World Cup is in the books, which means it’s time for real football to take center stage – in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup.
There are eight ties just before Christmas whetting the appetite for club football once again, kicking off with four games on Tuesday evening.
Here’s a 90-minute preview of the Carabao Cup round four.
Tuesday 20 December
Julen Lopetegui’s first game in charge of Wolves is against League Two strugglers Gillingham.
The Gaels advanced to round four after knocking out Brentford on penalties, scoring with their only shot to force an ultimately decisive shootout.
Lopetegui will be keen to see as many of his key players in action here as possible, so a strong Wolves XI should see them through to the quarter-finals.
Prediction: Wolves 2-0 Gillingham
Newcastle’s quest for a first trophy in 67 years continues against Bournemouth.
The Cherries held the Magpies to a 1-1 draw at St James’ Park towards the start of Gary O’Neill’s interim tenure.
He leads Bournemouth back to Tyneside as permanent boss now, but they will do well to avoid defeat this time around.
Prediction: Newcastle 3-1 Bournemouth
Leicester will look to start their season from where they left off when they travel to the Milton Keynes Dance.
The Foxes started the season in turmoil, but got behind Brendan Rodgers and went into the World Cup break in fine form.
The same cannot be said for the Dons, who are 22nd in League One. They at least got a shock win in Portsmouth at the weekend, so, every cloud…
Prediction: MK Dons 0-4 Leicester
Nathan Jones’ first home game as Southampton manager sees Saints take on Lincoln.
The 49-year-old could go some way to endearing himself to the south coast with a cup run to start his reign.
They face an Imps side seen between promotion and relegation battles in League One and you’d expect a typical Southampton win. That said, they only beat Sheffield Wednesday on penalties in the last round.
Prediction: Southampton 2-1 Lincoln
Clocks 90 minute World Cup show On YouTube as Harry Simeo, Scott Saunders, Graze Khan and special guest Kieron Dyer review Argentina’s stunning win over France on penalties. Subscribe to the channel. Here!
Wednesday 21 December
Vincent Kompany returns to old rivals Manchester United for the first time as manager.
The Manchester City legend has impressed in charge of Burnley this season, sitting comfortably atop the Championship table and working their way into round four.
Erik ten Hague’s Red Devils were already clicking before being sidelined for the World Cup, and even though his players are returning from Qatar, they should have plenty in the tank.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Burnley
The Championship’s strangest promotion contenders Blackburn take on one of the Premier League’s most erratic squads at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday.
Jon Dahl Tomasson is third in the second-tier table, with 13 wins, 10 losses and zero draws in his opening 23 matches. Their goal difference is -1.
Steve Cooper’s Forest showed signs that they might not be doomed to relegation this season before their momentum was halted by the World Cup.
Prediction: Blackburn 1-2 Nottingham Forest
League One Charlton will be thankful they won’t have to contend with world champions Alexis McAllister when Brighton come to south London.
The Argentine is not expected back until after the Boxing Day fixture and so the Seagulls must soldier on without their talismanic playmaker.
However can they hope to beat a struggling team to avoid a shock relegation to League Two?! We think they would be right.
Prediction: Charlton 0-3 Brighton
Thursday 22 December
The final match of Round Four will be between modern rivals Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium.
Both clubs have pleaded with their respective fans to ease tensions with the other as the rivalry has turned into a bitter feud in recent years.
While Erling Haaland will be itching to score some goals again after a month off, Pep Guardiola has already insisted his squad is stripped down to the bare bones due to the World Cup, with their fit and available stars. is given more importance.
In the red corner, Liverpool were dealt a hammer blow when Luis Diaz was ruled out for another two months. They may be the holders, but the multitude of fixtures coming up for the Carabao Cup and Jurgen Klopp’s historic absence mean they will leave Manchester as underdogs.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool