Manchester City were made to work for their midweek Champions League win against German club Schalke on Wednesday night. Finding themselves 2-1 down, goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling with five minutes left has put Pep Guardiola’s side in good stead with three away goals ahead of their return leg in three weeks.
In his third season at Manchester City, it’s now important that Guardiola does all he can to bring a Champions League title to the Etihad. The Spaniard suffered a Round of 16 defeat to AS Monaco during his first season in charge while a quarter-final exit to runners-up Liverpool last season put a dent in City’s record breaking Premier League campaign.
For fans, it’s a Champions League trophy they want and with Juventus and neighbours Manchester United 2-0 down in each of their ties, this is perhaps the best chance that Guardiola will get at City – especially given Real Madrid’s poor form. Perhaps the only team that could potentially upset Guardiola’s City is Paris Saint-Germain.
Chelsea vs Manchester City
While Pep Guardiola would have been eager to continue his Premier League campaign given Liverpool’s game in hand, it’s the Carabao Cup final that is his priority this weekend with another piece of silverware up for grabs.
They play Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday while City will look to defend their title for the first time. For Maurizio Sarri, it’s essential he guides Chelsea to a win given the pressure the Italian is currently facing, with Zinedine Zidane being linked as a potential successor.
Chelsea vs Manchester City comes two weeks after their previous meeting which saw Guardiola’s City terrorise their counterparts. Goals from Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan and a brace from Sergio Aguero found themselves 4-0 up after 25 minutes before Aguero and Sterling added to their tally in the second half, putting six past Sarri’s Chelsea.
The chances of that happening again are very slim and Guardiola seems to think that the result won’t be anywhere near to that of two weeks ago.
“I don’t like to play the same team in a short period of time when you have beaten them before,” said the Spaniard.
“They [Chelsea] are incredibly professional players, they are proud and bright and will do extra. We are going to play the type of game you have to play in a final and try to win the title. Of course it is not the most important title of the season but once we are here in an amazing stadium against a top side, we want to prepare to win.”
With a relatively small squad, we could see Sarri make use of players such as Callum Hudson-Odoi against Manchester City. Given they could miss out on the top four, it would be perhaps wise for Sarri to focus on the Premier League and Europa League to maximise their chance of qualifying for the Champions League, otherwise his first season in charge will certainly be a failure.
The former Napoli head coach is also aware that Chelsea can’t make the same lethargic start they did against Malmo on Thursday night, despite them eventually advancing.
“[It would be] a disaster, of course. I think that we played the first 30 minutes without confidence. Nervous. We were unable to move the ball very fast. We were in trouble on their pressing. Then a little bit better in the last 15 minutes of the first half and then, after the first goal, very well,” said Sarri.
Manchester City are likely to be without John Stones, Benjamin Mendy and Gabriel Jesus for their trip to Wembley while we could see Arijanet Muric keep his place as Guardiola’s Carabao Cup goalkeeper.
We know that Pep Guardiola is likely to field a different – and perhaps weakened team – to the side that thumped Chelsea 6-0 two weeks ago. Leroy Sane made a substitute appearance against Schalke and so the German could start from the off on Sunday and when on form, dare I say it, he offers more than Raheem Sterling.
This is the first time these two teams have played each other in the League Cup final while Chelsea will be eager to break their Wembley hoodoo, where they’ve failed to win in their last three visits: Community Shield (vs Manchester City) and their Premier League and League Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur.
All signs point to a Manchester City win here, but with the pressure on Sarri, you can never say never as a League Cup trophy may just see the Italian hang on to his Chelsea job for that little bit longer.
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