Nottingham Forest and Manchester United meet at the City Ground this evening for the first part of what promises to be a fascinating double-header between the clubs in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup.
With chemistry finally developing between their raft of new signings, the Tricky Trees have been providing trickier tests for their opponents of late, as evidenced by their run of just two defeats in eight, though United – who beat Forest 3-0 on December 27th – remain favourites to establish a first-leg advantage to take back to Old Trafford.
As per the norm, you can find my stats pack for this evening’s Carabao Cup clash below, which is packed wall-to-wall with key info and metrics from the teams’ Premier League campaigns to date. Use the data presented below in combination with my Stats Pack Guide to construct stronger bet builders for the game.
Dean Henderson is out injured for Forest, though the keeper wouldn’t have been able to face his parent club had he been fit and the experienced Wayne Hennessey will take the gloves this evening in his absence.
Taiwo Awoniyi, Giulian Biancone, Moussa Niakhate, Cheikhou Kouyate and Omar Richards are all in the treatment room alongside Henderson, while recent signing Chris Wood is cup-tied.
With a better chance to rotate his team on the horizon in the FA Cup against Reading this weekend, Erik ten Hag is expected to field a strong side at the City Ground this evening.
Casemiro is available again following a one-game ban and he should replace Scott McTominay in midfield. Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial and Diogo Dalot are expected to miss out again. Tyrell Malacia will hope to get the nod at left back ahead of Luke Shaw.
Forest supporters would be forgiven for fearing the worst after a glance at their underlying stats for the campaign, however, their numbers have been on the up pretty much across the board in recent weeks.
The Tricky Trees managed to win the xG battle in each of their last four matches, and in their last two Premier League fixtures against Leicester and Bournemouth, they racked up a whopping 35 attempts on goal.
Forest did collect seven cards in their last four games – a tally that falls roughly in line with their average for the season, and the card count could be high again this evening when they collide with an aggressive United outfit.
United have been steadily improving under Erik ten Hag and the increased control they’ve enjoyed in most of their fixtures is starting to be reflected properly in the stats.
The Red Devils’ goals, xG, shot and shots on target for per 90 figures are all on the rise, and their defeat to Arsenal on Sunday was the first time in 11 fixtures where United’s xG was lighter than their opponent’s.
Interestingly, United don’t tend to win many corners and they conceded nine of them when they last played Forest in December. Nottingham Forest are available at a generous 7/5 to win over 4.5 corners today.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
Taiwo Awoniyi has been Forest’s best performer in both the shots and shots on target per 90 departments this term, though Brennan Johnson and Morgan Gibbs-White showed real promise as a pair up front for Forest in recent assignments, and both could threaten United today.
Welsh international Johnson clocked two attempts on target in each of his last two appearances – a feat matched exactly by Gibbs-White, who lodged two accurate attempts of his own in the same games (vs Leicester & Bournemouth).
Johnson and Gibbs-White should interest quite a few later on at 5/6 and 6/5 respectively to hit at least one shot on target.
Marcus Rashford was the only Man Utd player to clock two shots on target against Arsenal on Sunday and the red-hot 25-year-old has hit at least two accurate attempts in six of his last eight appearances overall.
Rashford can be added to your coupon at 5/4 to finish this evening’s game with at least two shots on target again, while Antony could be worth a look on the opposite flanks.
The Brazilian has been criticised for some peripheral performances of late, however, he has landed a blow on target in six of his last eight runouts or United. The 22-year-old could be worth sizing up in the shot markets later on.
Player Goals and Assists
Brennan Johnson has really started to flourish for Forest since the domestic campaign’s resumption and the 21-year-old has chipped in with four goals and two assists in eight appearances in league and cup since late December.
Johnson (21/10) along with that man again, Morgan Gibbs-White (12/5), both represent decent value to either score or assist this evening. Gibbs-White set up two goals against Leicester in Forest’s last match at the City Ground.
Marcus Rashford broke the deadlock with a stunning effort from long range against Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium on Sunday, though United are perhaps developing an overreliance on their star forward to produce moments like that.
Nevertheless, Rashford – who scored the opener for United against Forest in December – is consistently delivering the goods and he is priced at 7/2 to score the game’s first goal again at the City Ground.
When Bruno Fernandes first arrived at United from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020, he was pretty much good for a goal or assist per game, and the 28-year-old’s output has been inching back to those levels in recent weeks. Indeed, Bruno has either scored or assisted in five of his last six starts, and he carries a price of 10/11 to provide another goal contribution today.
Nottingham Forest controlled just 34.2% possession when they visited Old Trafford in December and that was the fifth time in their last seven fixtures where they had less than 40% of the ball.
Forest will expect to see less possession than their visitors again this evening and as a consequence, it’s tough to pluck decent passing market options from their ranks.
Joe Worrall, Serge Aurier and Renan Lodi are all priced well to hit 50 or more passes, though that trio has beaten that target just seven times in 40 appearances combined this term, and it might make more sense to give them a miss here.
Man Utd played 631 passes to Forest’s 314 when the teams last met in December and Luke Shaw, Casemiro, Raphael Varane and Christian Eriksen all chipped in with more than 70 of those passes each.
However, I’m looking towards Lisandro Martinez ahead of that quartet today. The Argentinean has pushed his way back into Erik ten Hag’s first XI after a couple of games on the bench and the 25-year-old is easily the most accomplished passer in the United backline.
Martinez has played over 90 passes in three of his last six away appearances in the Premier League and the classy left-footer is 8/13 to hit a much smaller 70+ passes target today.
Nottingham Forest Cards
Centre-back Joe Worrall has collected more cautions than any of his Forest teammates this term and the 26-year-old could have a tough physical test on his plate against 6’6″ Man Utd striker Wout Weghorst this evening.
Holding midfielder Remo Frueler could be one to watch in his attempts to shackle United’s key creator Bruno Fernandes, while the all-Brazilian battle down Forest’s left flank between Renan Lodi and Antony has the potential to produce cards in both directions.
Wout Weghorst has enjoyed a solid if unspectacular start to his loan stint with United, though the giant Dutchman has already shown an aptitude for winning free kicks and he could draw mistimed challenges from Joe Worrall later on.
In midfield, Bruno Fernandes’s eye for a killer pass should put him on no-nonsense Swiss enforcer Frueler’s radar at the City Ground. On the wing, Antony’s close control could tempt his marker Lodi into some rash tackle attempts.
Match-Ups to watch
Joe Worrall vs Wout Weghorst
Remo Frueler vs Bruno Fernandes
Renan Lodi vs Antony
Manchester United Cards
Casemiro should be back in midfield with a clean slate for United this evening and the Brazilian could add to his five-card haul for the Red Devils when pitting his wits against his hard-working Forest counterparts.
Similarly, Fred (if he starts) – who has been committing over two fouls per 90 in the Premier League – could be one to keep an eye on alongside his compatriot.
Tyrell Malacia was carded when United played Forest last month and the tough-tackling Dutch left-back could have to get physical with in-form Brennan Johnson again this evening.
Sparks could fly in what should be a crowded engine room in midfield later on and Ryan Yates and Orel Mangala could be on the receiving end when they face off against bruising Brazilian pair Casemiro and Fred.
Both Forest midfielders tend to draw plenty of fouls and more than a few kicks could be aimed in their direction in today’s semi-final first leg.
Brennan Johnson is playing with a real swagger at the moment and the flying Welshman’s direct running should test the recovery power of Malacia along with the timing of the Dutchman’s tackles.
Match-Ups to watch
Casemiro vs Ryan Yates
Fred vs Orel Mangala
Tyrell Malacia vs Brennan Johnson
My Bet Builder Picks of the Pack
Still not sure how to make best use of the data? Here’s a few selections that I liked the look of when making the pack.
Nottingham Forest vs Manchester United
Nottingham Forest average 2.20 cards per game, and 1.85 cards against.
Man United average 2.50 cards per game, and 1.20 cards against.
Referee Michael Oliver averages 4.00 cards per game.
Nottingham Forest games average 2.55 goals a game with an xG of 2.80.
Man United games average 2.85 goals with an xG of 3.28.
This selection would come in in Forest’s last 6 games, and 5 of United’s last 6.
Marcus Rashford has 12 goal contributions in 20 appearances this season.
He scored against Forest in December.
Joe Worrall average 1.38 fouls per game, and has 5 bookings in 16 runouts.
Up against foul-drawers Bruno Fernandes (1.16) and Wout Weghorst (1.11).