Bristol City and Northampton Town are preparing to do battle in the South West as the 2020/21 Carabao Cup continues. There should be a decent incentive to reach the next stage, where the winner of this tie could face Premier League side Aston Villa, who have lifted the trophy on five occasions in the past.
Northampton boss Keith Curle will take his newly-promoted team to his birthplace in search of a place in the third round. Curle turned out for both of Bristol’s EFL clubs (Rovers and City) in the early stages of his playing career and has interestingly only faced the Robins once as a manager.
On Saturday, the Cobblers began life back in League One with a 2-2 draw against AFC Wimbledon, after coming from behind on two occasions to earn a point.
Meanwhile, Bristol City began their Championship campaign with a 2-1 home victory over Coventry City. Eight minutes of normal time were remaining when captain Tomas Kalas headed in the winning goal for Dean Holden’s side, who will be aspiring to finish in the play-offs this year having strengthened their squad in key areas.
The Robins beat Exeter City 2-0 in the first round of the competition to reach this stage, whilst the Cobblers enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 win over Championship outfit Cardiff City.
Bristol City head coach Dean Holden could hand debuts to new signings Chris Brunt, Alfie Mawson and Stephen Sessegnon in this match. However, the Robins will be without at least five players through injury.
Their list of absentees includes Callum O’Dowda, who is set to be out for another two weeks with a groin strain, and Jay Dasilva, who will see a specialist later this week after injuring his shin.
The Cobblers were missing six different players for their league season opener at the weekend, including experienced winger Nicky Adams and striker Harry Smith.
Recent new signing Joe Nuttall was another who did not feature on Saturday, but it is thought that the Blackpool loanee could be fit enough to make the bench at Ashton Gate.
Bristol City: Bentley; Vyner, Moore, Mawson; Massengo; Sessegnon, Palmer, Morrell, Brunt; Martin, Wells.
Northampton: Mitchell; Racic, Bolger, Horsfall; Harriman, Lines, Missilou, Martin; Warburton, Ashley-Seal, Roberts.
These two sides last faced each other over 13 years ago, when both clubs were in League One. On that occasion, Bristol City were 1-0 victors thanks to a Kevin Betsy goal. The Robins ended the season (2006/07) in second place and were therefore promoted to the second-tier.
Northampton have not beaten Bristol City since January 2002, when a brace from striker Jamie Forrester helped them earn a 3-1 win at Ashton Gate. Forrester arguably had some of the best years of his career in Northamptonshire, finishing with 39 goals in 112 league games for the Cobblers.
The two teams have met twice in the FA Cup in the past, and once in the EFL Trophy (then known as the Freight Rover Trophy), but Wednesday evening’s tie will mark the first time they have played each other in the League Cup.
Ones to watch
Having achieved top-half finishes in all of the last three Championship seasons, Bristol City will be keen to push on this term and finish in the top six. If they are to achieve that aim, the form of striker Nahki Wells could be of paramount importance.
Now aged 30, Wells has a wealth of experience in the second-tier. He has scored a total of 70 goals across six campaigns spent in the division, and he also has a promotion on his CV after winning the play-offs with Huddersfield Town in 2017.
Should the Bermuda international be chosen to start against Northampton he will be eager to find the net, having failed to do so in either of the Robins’ opening two matches.
Less than two years ago, Matty Warburton was working as a PE teacher at a school in Greater Manchester. Now, he looks set to play a key role for Northampton as they compete for success in the third-tier of English football.
Before being given a chance by the Cobblers in July 2019, the National League North was the highest level that the attacking midfielder had played at, having featured in that division for Curzon Ashton, Salford City and Stockport County.
Last term, Warburton played a bit-part role as Northampton won promotion from League Two via the play-offs, but he has started all three of the Cobblers’ competitive games so far this season and has scored twice, including an excellent free-kick goal against Wimbledon.
When speaking to the media on Tuesday afternoon, Bristol City assistant head coach Paul Simpson revealed that the Robins team which will face Northampton should be capable of securing a positive result.
He said: “There certainly won’t be any experimenting going on. We will take the Carabao Cup seriously and give respect to Northampton.
“We are in a really, really fortunate position in that we have a very strong squad of players and we can make changes, from Saturday, knowing we have a very strong side.
“We will be making changes but it will be because we have games coming thick and fast and because players - such as Chris Martin, Steven Sessegnon, Alfie Mawson and Tyreeq Bakinson - need minutes to make sure they’re up to speed.”
Cobblers boss Keith Curle has admitted that he is looking forward to returning to the club who he played 121 league games for between 1984 and 1987.
He told BBC Radio Bristol: "Yeah, definitely [looking forward to the game]. I came back a few years ago when we had a reunion [with the 1986 Freight Rover Trophy winning team].
"That was fantastic then to see the stadium and how it has developed and how much it's changed from when I was there for the club.”
How to watch
This cup tie is not on TV but is available to watch on either ‘Robins TV’ or ‘iFollow Cobblers’, with a match pass costing £10. The game will kick-off at 7.45pm.