Pre-match analysis: Organisation of defence a priority for Hull

Pre-match analysis: Organisation of defence a priority for Hull

Marco Silva and his side face a daunting semi-final trip to Manchester United, but windows of opportunity are there to be found.

Jordan Eyre

Marco Silva is set to face compatriot Jose Mourinho on Tuesday night as Hull City face Manchester United in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final.

The task is made all the more ominous by Mourinho’s admission that his big guns will be introduced back into the fold – which means Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba are likely starters for the Reds at Old Trafford.

Away advantage

The Tigers’ quest for a second cup final trip to Wembley Stadium in three years will be aided slightly by the fact that they head to Manchester in the first leg.

For a weaker team to be playing away in the first leg offers a modicum of hope for progression: Hull are likely to pack the midfield and defensive areas, pinching the space for United to operate in. There is no shame in Silva’s side opting for the archetypal away cup tie performance in these circumstances – if they play into United’s hands, it will spell trouble.

Therefore, Hull will perhaps play with a lone striker – most likely to be Abel Hernandez – while the pace and craft of Sam Clucas and Robert Snodgrass could be key on the counter attack. While United are in a rich vein of form currently, it was not so long ago that draws were the most common outcome at Old Trafford, a result which the Tigers would snatch immediately if offered.

Set pieces could prove crucial

If Hull can occasionally threaten their hosts amid an inevitable barrage of pressure, their best route of scoring may arrive through a set play. Robert Snodgrass has scored twice from direct free-kicks this season, while defender Michael Dawson is the club’s second-highest scorer this season behind the Scotland international.

Midfielder-turned-defender Jake Livermore has also notched this season, meaning almost a third of the Tigers’ goals this season have come from defensive-minded players. This suggests that Hull are a physically imposing side from set pieces, and it would be remiss of them to not attempt to grab a goal by outmuscling an occasionally suspect United backline.

Don’t be drawn into rotation game

It is imperative that, when considering his chosen team for Tuesday’s clash, Silva should not deviate away from the norm too much.

Granted, Hull are not blessed with plenty of options but that can be a source of encouragement: consistency in team selection can lead to a boosted team morale and stronger likeliness to fight for each other.

While the Tigers are winless in their last nine games, they have not performed terribly and with a smattering of luck and improved concentration, it’s conceivable that they could have yielded far more points than they have so far.

Of course, a place in the EFL Cup final is at stake as opposed to the three points on offer in the Premier League, but despite Mourinho’s insistence he will name a stronger side there are bound to be weak links for Hull to exploit.

While the hosts may have the stronger lineup, Silva will have the side more familiar and in sync with one another and, in true cup spirit, it’s a concept that could prove important.