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Probable Lineups, Prediction, Tactics, Team News & Key Stats

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The first trophy of the 2020/21 season in England will be up for grabs on Sunday when Manchester City face Tottenham Hotspur in the Carabao Cup finals.

After a long journey, we are at the end point of the 2020/21 Carabao Cup as Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur will battle it out for the first major honour of the domestic season in England at the Wembley Stadium this weekend.

Manchester City, the current holders of the trophy, saw their dreams of an unprecedented quadruple crash last week, when they were eliminated from the FA Cup semi-final. A treble, though, is still very much on the cards, with Pep Guardiola’s side comfortably seated at the top of the Premier League table and in the UEFA Champions League semi-final as well.

As for their journey in this season’s Carabao Cup, the Cityzens were made to work hard by Bournemouth in the third round, but saw off Burnley and Arsenal with relative ease in the subsequent stages before beating Manchester United in the semi-final. And they will be hoping to lift the Carabao Cup for the fourth year in a row.

For, Tottenham, Sunday will be a momentous occasion as it provides them with an opportunity to end a long-drawn 13-year trophy drought. Indeed, Spurs last a won a trophy in 2008, which coincidentally was the League Cup, and they could bring an end to the barren run this weekend. However, matters have not been helped by the situation at the club with Jose Mourinho getting sacked as manager earlier this week, to be replaced by Ryan Mason on an interim basis.

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Tottenham were given a bye into the Round of 16 of the competition after their third-round opponents Leyton Orient reported a coronavirus outbreak. The Lilywhites then beat local rivals Chelsea on penalties before seeing off Championship sides Stoke City and Brentford to make it to the showpiece event on Sunday.

Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have clashed twice already this season with each side picking up a win apiece in the Premier League. And, ahead of this blockbuster event at Wembley, for which a small number of fans will be permitted into the stadium, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the two teams.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester City

There is some positive news for Manchester City heading into the big game as star men Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne are both back in training and in contention to feature. But, with the Champions League semi-final against PSG looming Pep Guardiola might not want to rush either of them back in action on Sunday. John Stones misses out due to suspension after being sent off against Aston Villa in midweek.

Manchester City are likely to make a few changes to the side that beat the Villans 2-1 earlier in the week, starting from goal, where cup goalkeeper Zack Steffen is expected to replace first-choice custodian Ederson Moraes. Ruben Dias is a certain starter at the heart of the defence, but should be partnered by Aymeric Laporte in Stones’s absence.

Kyle Walker should get the nod at right-back against his former club while Joao Cancelo, who has suffered a bit of a dip in form recently, is likely to get the nod over Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back.

There should be no looking past Rodri in the holding midfield role, although there is the chance that Guardiola might opt to go in with captain and senior statesman Fernandinho for the final. De Bruyne, as iterated earlier, is unlikely to be rushed back, meaning the creative onus from midfield will fall on Bernardo Silva while Ilkay Gundogan occupies the third slot in the middle of the park.

Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden, both of whom had fine outings in midweek against Aston Villa should get the nod on right and left flanks, respectively. Up front, Gabriel Jesus is likely to be preferred over Raheem Sterling, who has been going through a bit of a rough patch.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Steffen; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; Silva, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Jesus, Foden

Tottenham Hotpsur

The big problem for Tottenham ahead of their biggest game of the season is the physical condition of ace goalscorer Harry Kane. The England captain picked up an ankle injury last week against Everton and missed the midweek clash against Southampton. Interim manager Ryan Mason acknowledged that it could very well be touch-and-go for the 27-year-old for Sunday’s game.

Apart from Kane, Ben Davies misses out with an injury while Joe Rodon is ineligible to feature by account of being cup-tied, having already played for Swansea City before his move to Tottenham. Having picked up a win in his first game in charge against the Saints, Mason is unlikely to make any major tweaks to formation or personnel on Sunday.

Club captain Hugo Lloris should get the nod over former Manchester City man Joe Hart in goal at Wembley. The senior centre-back pairing of Toby Alderweireld and Eric Dier should start as well, flanked by Serge Aurier and Sergio Reguilon, both of whom will need to cut out the errors in their game if Spurs are to have a chance on Sunday.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will hold the fort in midfield and look to thwart the creative influence of the Manchester City midfielders, with support likely to come from Harry Winks, who finds himself back into the plans after being somewhat frozen out by Jose Mourinho. The Englishman starting in the double pivot should see Tanguy Ndombele move into the No. 10 role, from where he will to carve open the Manchester City defence with incisive passes.

Gareth Bale and Son Heung-min, who were the heroes of the comeback win against Southampton, ought to hold on to their places on the right and left flanks, respectively. Given the importance of the game and what it means for Tottenham, expect Kane to make himself available for selection and start as the centre-forward, with Carlos Vinicius being an option from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Dier, Reguilon; Winks, Hojbjerg; Bale, Ndombele, Son; Kane

Key Stats

  • Manchester City are looking to win the League Cup for a joint-record eighth time (level with Liverpool), while they could also become just the second team to win the competition in four consecutive campaigns (Liverpool, 1981-1984).
  • Tottenham’s last major trophy win came in this competition back in 2008, beating Chelsea 2-1 at Wembley under Juande Ramos. This is their third appearance in the final since then, losing against Manchester United in 2009 and Chelsea in 2015.
  • Sergio Aguero scored in Manchester City’s League Cup final victories in both 2018 and 2020 and could become the first player to score in three different League Cup finals since Didier Drogba (2005, 2007, 2008).
  • Tottenham have won all three of their previous League Cup meetings with Manchester City, winning in round three in 1992-93, round four in 2003-04 and the quarter-final en route to winning the trophy in 2007-08.
  • This is the second time Tottenham and Manchester City are facing off in a major domestic cup final, with Spurs winning the 1981 FA Cup against the Cityzens following a replay.

Player to Watch

Phil Foden

Harry Kane, Ilkay Gundogan, Son Heung-min, Ruben Dias, Gareth Bale – there is an abundance of top-quality players that will be on display on Sunday; players who are quite capable of altering the course of the game with their performance. However, it is Phil Foden that we are going with as our choice of Player to Watch, following his brilliant performance against Aston Villa in midweek.

Indeed, the England international was brilliant in helping Manchester City secure a comeback win against the Villans and has time and again stepped up in vital moments over the course of the ongoing campaign to make a difference. In the process, the 20-year-old has amassed a mighty impressive tally of 14 goals and 9 assists from 43 games in all competitions, scoring and assisting a couple apiece in the Carabao Cup.

It was at this exact stage two years ago – the Carabao Cup final vs Aston Villa in 2018/19 – that Foden came of age and announced to the world that he was ready to take the next step in his career. And having done so and become one of Manchester City’s most important players, the youngster will once again be hoping to lead his team to another cup victory.

Prediction

Manchester City 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Manchester City, not so long ago, seemed close to unbeatable. However, chinks have started to appear in recent games, meaning Tottenham could very well be in with a chance to pull off an upset here. However, Spurs themselves have been wobbly for a while now and had to rely on a late penalty to win against Southampton last time out, even though there was a lot more positivity in their approach compared to what was seen under Jose Mourinho.

In many ways, injuries could end up deciding the outcome of the game. Tottenham’s chances will largely depend on Harry Kane being fit and available while Manchester City could easily go all the way if Kevin De Bruyne is risked by Pep Guardiola.

In the end, it could be a game of small margins with the Cityzens’ superior quality and better form likely to be the swaying factor. The Hard Tackle is going with a 2-1 win for Guardiola & co. and more heartbreak for Tottenham.



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