What is the romance of the cup? Although there are no strict definitions of the term we so often hear when talking about the game we love or tuning into television coverage of each round of the Capital One Cup, it can be boiled down to three things: shocks, stories and the feel-good factor.
This triumvirate of ingredients have all been on displays once again in this year’s Capital One Cup, proving that the tournament has lost none of its magic and appeal.
We’ll start with shocks. You only have to look at Round 1 and 2 of this year’s Capital One Cup to see a few surprise results and unforeseen performances. Wolves may not be the force they were a couple of years ago when top tier football was a weekly occurrence at the Molineux, but they still entered their tie with Morecambe as favourites. Yet the fourth tier side pulled off a memorable performance to overhaul the Midlanders.
Fellow League Two side Bury then matched the Shrimps as they beat Crewe Alexandra 3-2, before the second round threw up an even more unlikely result. Fresh from promotion, Crystal Palace entered their clash with Bristol City expecting a smooth route into the hat for the draw. However, the Somerset side – of League One – shocked the Eagles with a 2-1 scoreline to provide the first true giantkilling of the year. Meanwhile Notts County took Liverpool to extra time at Anfield before Leyton Orient very nearly stunned Hull.
On to stories. Although two sets of 90 minutes stand in the way, we could be set for two of the nation’s great rivals to contest the Final. Manchester City have all but booked their spot at Wembley with a 6-0 dismantling of West Ham, where they could face Manchester United – who are in with a real chance of overhauling a shock 2-1 loss to Sunderland at Old Trafford. Since the Citizens’ Middle Eastern-backed revival, the two sides have reignited their rivalry at the very top, after clashing for the last two Premier League titles – of which each have claimed one apiece. A final contested by the two halves of one of England’s great cities is an excellent prospect, and one that will surely be talked about from pubs around Wembley to living rooms across Asia.
And last but by no means least the feel-good factor. While we have just looked at United and City, their opponents in the last four have been living, breathing examples of this. The Black Cats and the Hammers are both fighting for their lives in the top tier, with relegation and the financial repercussions potentially damaging to their futures. Their fans have endured disappointments on a weekly basis in the league, but the Capital One Cup has provided a welcome break, and a platform for success. The odds on either of the two reaching Wembley aren’t straightforward – even with Sunderland leading on aggregate – but reaching the Semi-Finals will be looked back on with a sense of pride one the final kick of the ball later this year is made.
Although shocks haven’t been plentiful this season, the Capital One Cup has still proved that the romance is bubbling away. And the best part? We aren’t even done yet!