Everything is going according to plan for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, except for the injuries and trailing Liverpool on the league table. It’s just by a point though and City can take back top spot with a win when the two sides meet at the Etihad Stadium in less than two weeks.
Generally, the team is playing well and the club still has a good chance at silverware in all the competitions. But the very first one, the League Cup, is now within touching distance.
It was Guardiola’s first trophy at the club last season. After enduring a frustrating first campaign in English football that saw him end a season without a trophy for the first time in his illustrious career, he made amends with the double last term.
It’s now time to consolidate. The aim is to do more now and City is on course. The biggest scare came against Leicester in the last round. City faced the Foxes at the same stage last season and prevailed on penalties after a 1-1 scoreline at full time. It was a repeat of History as City goalkeeper stood up to be counted in the penalty shootout to help secure progress.
Guardiola’s men are billed to face League One side Burton Albion in the semi-finals in the weeks commencing 7 and 21 January. The third tier side is over the moon already to have come this far in the League Cup. This represents the first major semi-final for the Brewers who have played in the competition for just 10 years having won the National League back in 2009. Nigel Clough’s men defeated Middlesbrough 1-0 away from home to get here.
However, given City’s experience in the competition, getting past Burton shouldn’t be a huge task. But memories of last season’s shock defeat to Wigan in the FA Cup provides cause for caution. The Sky Blues will need to avoid underrating the League One side and approach the game with all the seriousness it deserves to prevent another upset.
It would be recalled that City has won three of the last five finals in the competition. Reaching another final as defending champions will put the Cityzens as firm favorites to lift the trophy again.
London rivals Tottenham and Chelsea will battle it out for the other slot in the final. Mauricio Pochettino’s team looks like a side on a mission having gone to the Emirates Stadium to defeat Arsenal 2-0 and book a place in the semi-finals.
Spurs have not won any silverware in over a decade and incidentally, the last trophy won was the League Cup. Their recent form in all competitions after holding Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou to make it to the Round of 16 in the Champions League, and overtaking Chelsea to third place on the Premier League table makes them a viable candidate for the trophy.
Talking about Chelsea, the Blues handed Man City the first defeat in the league recently. Maurizio Sarri has proven he can also beat Guardiola, just as Pochettino has done before. So meeting either of them will not be a walk in the park.
Yet, Guardiola’s experience in competition finals as well as City’s superior quality in terms of personnel and playing style gives us the advantage. That makes winning the trophy this time around very likely for City.