Carling Cup becomes wide open as big guns make early exit

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An unlikely winner of the Carling Cup could be crowned this year as three of the tournament’s biggest guns fell at their first hurdle in the third round.

Ten of the 16 teams left in the tournament are from the Premier League, but some of the names many people would expect to feature in this list do not.

Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City were all knocked out by Newcastle, Northampton and West Brom respectively and with Arsenal also dumping out Tottenham in the first evening of fixtures, four of the so-called top six teams in England are not in the pot for the fourth round.

The exit of pre-season favourites Chelsea has resulted in Manchester United being installed as the 9/4 favourites after they avoided an upset away at Scunthorpe.

Arsenal were a big 11/1 to win the Carling Cup at the start of the season, but they are now just 3/1 after putting on a vintage display to see off their north London rivals.

Last season’s beaten finalists Aston Villa are the third favourites at 8/1 after fighting back to beat Blackburn in Gerard Houllier’s first game in charge.

Birmingham are tough to beat at St Andrew’s and will fancy their chances of reaching the latter stages of the tournament if they can secure a home draw.

They are 10/1 and are closely followed in the betting by Newcastle, who are 12/1 after eliminating Chelsea.

Of the rest of the Premier League contingent, Wolves and Stoke are 16/1, West Brom are 20/1 and West Ham and Wigan can both be backed at 25/1.

Northampton are the 150/1 outsiders despite knocking out Liverpool. See the whole Carling Cup winners market.

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