Foriegn

City poised to book Carabao Cup final … as they take on rivals United

Manchester City will be looking to book their place in the Carabao Cup final for a third successive season when they host Manchester United at the Etihad in the semi-final second leg tonight.

Pep Guardiola’s side are in a commanding position after winning the first leg 3-1 at Old Trafford with goals from Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and an Andreas Pereira own goal cancelling out a Marcus Rashford strike.

Both teams head into the fixture following commanding FA Cup displays at the weekend with City thrashing Fulham 4-0 at the Etihad and Manchester United enjoying a dominant 6-0 victory at Tranmere.

Guardiola opted to rotate his side for the visit of Fulham with Sergio Agüero and Kevin De Bruyne unused substitutes and fit-again Aymeric Laporte left out of the squad altogether.

Considering De Bruyne’s form this season, it is no wonder that Guardiola is keen to wrap him up in cotton wool at any reasonable opportunity. Following an injury-hit 2018/19 campaign, the Belgian has been back to his very best this season.

Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is the only player in the Premier League keeping pace with De Bruyne in the assists charts and even then he lags five behind with ten to the City playmaker’s 15.

De Bruyne was also exceptional in the first leg at Old Trafford, memorably twisting Phil Jones inside and out again before lashing a shot onto the post with Pereira unwittingly putting in the rebound.

Given how brilliant De Bruyne has been this campaign, it is no surprise that he is the fifth most valuable Premier League player on Football Index at £5.16, only behind Harry Kane, Paul Pogba, Raheem Sterling and the aforementioned Alexander-Arnold.

United will be without Marcus Rashford for the considerable future after he suffered a double stress fracture in his lower back during an FA Cup replay against Wolves.

The Red Devils struggled badly without their attacking talisman against Burnley in midweek, losing 2-0 at Old Trafford, but they bounced back against admittedly weak opponents in the FA Cup on Sunday.

It took him a while but Martial eventually got himself on the scoresheet during the 6-0 rout against Tranmere as his curled effort was deflected into the top corner for United’s fifth.

There is an assumption that Martial struggles for top form when Rashford is unavailable and vice versa, but with the England international out of action, it is the Frenchman’s time to shine.

Doing so in a Manchester derby and cup semi-final represents the perfect stage for him to showcase his talents.

Guardiola has virtually a full-strength squad to select from with only long-term absentee Leroy Sane unavailable. Riyad Mahrez appeared to pick up a knock against Fulham and was substituted as a precaution.

On Laporte’s absence against Fulham, Guardiola said: “He had some fatigue, which is normal after four or five months. We are not going to take risks. Until we feel he is ready, he won’t play. If he can play against United, he can play.” – squawka.com

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