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Nottingham Forest v Manchester United Preview: Visitors can claim first-leg advantage

Manchester United are expected to secure a first-leg lead when they go to Nottingham Forest in the second EFL Cup semi-final on Wednesday.

With Wembley now in the sights of both clubs - and a final against either Southampton or Newcastle to come - it should be a very competitive affair at the City Ground.

However, the visitors should edge it and claim a win to take into the second leg at Old Trafford next week.

WhatNottingham Forest v Manchester United, EFL Cup semi-final, first leg
WhenThe City Ground, Nottingham
Where20:00, Wednesday 25th January, 2023
How to watchSky Sports Main Event/Football
OddsNottingham Forest 17/4, Draw 14/5, Manchester United 4/6

United suffered late blow at Arsenal

Erik Ten Hag's side must quickly get over the disappointment of losing late on at Arsenal on Sunday - a result that left them 11 points adrift of the leaders at the top of the Premier League table - and focus instead on staying on course for what would be a first domestic cup triumph since 2017, when they last won this trophy.

Forest, meanwhile, have been much-improved of late and have moved up to 13th in the top-flight thanks to recent wins over Southampton and Leicester and draws with Chelsea and Bournemouth, while they have impressively got past Grimsby, Tottenham, Blackburn and Wolves to reach the last four of the EFL Cup.

The Forest fans are sure to make it a lively occasion at The City Ground as they aim to make the final of a competition they have won four times, although it's 31 years since the East Midlands outfit were last in the League Cup final - when they were ironically beaten 1-0 by the Red Devils at the old Wembley.

Cooper hopes Forest can emulate past triumphs

Boss Steve Cooper has said in the build-up to the first leg he wants his players to "embrace" Forest's rich history and use it as inspiration.

After he guided them back up to the top-flight for the first time since 1999 last season, making a major cup final in their first campaign back amongst the elite would be a superb achievement.

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However, it is a huge ask for Cooper's side to get the better of United over two games, despite the fact they have only lost two of their last 11 matches in all competitions and are showing real fight to suggest they can avoid a quick return to the Championship.

One of those two losses came at Old Trafford in the league when they went down 3-0 over Christmas as United demonstrated their superiority, but this is unlikely to be as comfortable.

Narrow away win predicted

As is often the case in EFL Cup semi-final first legs, a one-goal victory could be the outcome with United to win 1-0 on offer at a tempting 6/1 in Correct Score, while 2-1 to the visitors on Wednesday night is available at 15/2 in the same market.

The defeat at the Emirates was the Red Devils' first in 11 games overall - a run that included home wins to nil over Burnley (2-0) and Charlton (3-0) in the previous rounds of this competition and it's clear Ten Hag has got his side in good shape. They look well-placed for a top-four finish in the league this season and will want a trophy as well to underline their progress under the Dutch tactician.

The League Cup is a competition United have won five times in the past - starting with that narrow 1992 success over Forest - and Ten Hag will be aware this tie against weaker opponents represents a great chance to first of all get the club back to Wembley before then securing some silverware in his first full season in charge.

United are 5/6 to Win the EFL Cup Outright, Forest are the 14/1 outsiders, while Newcastle are 6/4 and Southampton are 11/1.

Both managers are expected to select strong sides with what's at stake and, while Forest can play their part at home, United should do enough in the first leg to come away with what may prove to be a crucial win with an away success available at 4/6 in Full Time Result.

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