City look to defend their crown as Ole aims to overcome his Semi-Final Curse - EFL CUP SF Preview
Last 3 Years' Champs City look to continue their hot streak in EFL Cup and give a fitting tribute to Club Legend King Colin Bell who passed away yesterday, while rivals United look to avenge last year's defeat at the same stage in this competition and break the Semi-Final curse which has been haunting them since last year in a game that will see two of the best midfielders in the league KDB and Bruno go face to face with each other. The recent clash in the league was deemed to be too friendly, but will it be the case again tonight? We think no, and expect a lot of fireworks and clashes in a game that might go to the wire. Read more to find out what to expect -
2021 couldn’t have started any better for Manchester City. After an emphatic 3-1 over Chelsea, City looks to turn around their worst start in the Premier League in years to reaffirm their position as title challengers with a supreme performance over a top side backing the claim. But the tough fixtures continue, as the Semi-Finals of the Carabao Cup begins today. While Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspurs are looking to end their trophy drought after their semi-final win against Brentford, Manchester City will be looking to defend their three-year reign over the cup as they travel away to face local rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford.
While many were disappointed after their highly anticipated encounter in the Premier League was a boring 0-0, this match has many things on the line. While Pep Guardiola will be looking to improve his record against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, coming out on top only twice in six matches; Solskjaer will be looking to win his first trophy as a Manchester United manager. And most importantly, City will be looking to extend their hold on the cup, becoming only the second side to win the competition four years in a row, after Liverpool’s dominance from 1980 to 1984. Unlike previous seasons where the semi-final in the EFL Cup is played over two-legs, there will only be one leg in this fixture, with the winner of this game facing either Spurs or Brentford in the final on the 25th April at the Wembley Stadium.
ROAD TO THE SEMI-FINAL
While many rival supporters will have you believe that City always gets the easy fixtures, the reality has been far from it. Trips away to Burnley and Arsenal are tricky games, while recently relegated Bournemouth was not the easiest fixture. While their defense has been consistent throughout the season, only conceding two goals in these games, it is their attack that has been reminiscent to the City team we know and love. 9 goals in three games is an amazing return, considering the Sky Blues took double the games to reach the same figure.
Manchester United in comparison has had similar level of opposition: with two Premier League sides (Brighton and Everton) and one Championship team (Luton Town). The Red Devils have been one of the most in-form teams in the cup, winning all of their three games away from home. While 8 goals in these 3 games are surely impressive, the fact that they are yet to concede a goal in 270 minutes of this competition makes them a very tough opposition.
Manchester City has always been unfortunate with injuries and fitness issues. The spread of the Coronavirus in the City camp has made several players unavailable. While Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker were tested positive only days after their quarterfinal win against Arsenal, important players such as Ederson, Ferran Torres, Tommy Doyle and Eric Garcia tested positive thereafter. While this already puts City in a very delicate situation, several injuries on top of it worsen the situation. While defensive stalwarts Laporte and Ake were ruled out from the Chelsea game due to injuries, City’s talisman Sergio Aguero is still not completely fit as said by Pep Guardiola and maybe will have to find his seat on the bench once again.
Manchester United does not have squad issues to the extent their rivals have, but they too will have to do without some important players. Edinson Cavani will be missing from this fixture as part of the 3-match ban by the FA due to racist remarks on social media as alleged by the governing body. Victor Lindelof remains a doubt due to back problems while Phil Jones remains unavailable.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Kevin De Bruyne
No surprises for guessing this one as the Belgian wizard continues to be City’s most important player. Only Harry Kane has more assists than De Bruyne in all of Europe’s Top 5 leagues, while he only trails Juan Cuadrado for the most amount of assists in the UEFA Champions League. On top of that, only 3 players have had more key passes than the Belgian despite him playing 2 less games in the league. Coming on the back of a goal and an assist against his former club Chelsea, Manchester City will have to depend upon the PFA Player of the Year if they want to beat an in-form United side with several key players ruled out.
Another no brainer. No one has had such an impact over a team like the Portuguese has. Fernandes has propelled with important goals and assists to guide his club to comeback victories in several instances throughout the campaign. 15 goals and 8 assists this season is surely an impressive feat and one needs to acknowledge his impressive performances, no matter which club you support. Having won only two trophies with Sporting in his 9-year journey with various clubs such as Novara, Udinese and Sampdoria; Fernandes will be looking to finally win a trophy outside his home country.
MANCHESTER CITY: Steffen, Cancelo, Stones, Dias, Mendy, Fernandinho, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Foden, Mahrez, Sterling
MANCHESTER UNITED: Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Bailly, Telles, McTominay, Fred, Pogba, Fernandes, Rashford, Martial
Manchester United 1 - Manchester City 2
This is going to be a very close match. Both are arguably the two most in-form teams right now in England, having been unbeaten in the last six games. However, Manchester City are the kings of this competition in recent years, having won the competition 5 times in the last seven seasons. On the other hand, Manchester United hasn’t been very good in semi-finals recently; having lost three semi-finals in their cup competitions last year (City, Chelsea, Seville). Expect Man City to win this fixture, but saying it will be easy will be a massive overstatement.