Manchester City will need to overcome the hurdle of rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford on Tuesday, but then back at the Etihad in two weeks time if the Blues are to keep their hopes of a hat-trick of consecutive League Cup titles alive.
The draw before the turn of the decade looked to not just offer Manchester City an opportunity for some early redemption, exactly a month on from the embarrassing 2-1 home defeat to their closest rivals, but also an opportunity for a large allocation of Manchester City supporters to make the short trip to Stretford. Much of the build-up to this game however, has been about this not being the case, and a reduced allocation of around 3,000 being offered to both sets of travelling fans.
Pep Guardiola announced that everyone but Leroy Sane took part in first team training on Monday. However, Aymeric Laporte is unlikely to feature as he nears a return from a long-term injury. Defender, Nicolas Otamendi is available after missing the last couple of games with injury.
Manchester United have several players struggling through injury and illness, and the Manchester United boss told the press that they will "give them as much time as we can”, when asked if they would feature in Tuesday's derby. Those players include Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly, TimothyFosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe.
Head To Head
A win on Tuesday would see Pep Guardiola having won his last three games at Old Trafford. The most recent of those being during the run-in at the back of last season, where second-half goals from Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane put City within touching distance of retaining the Premier League title.
The last time these two sides met in the League Cup was in October 2016, when a young Manchester City side valiantly lost 1-0 to the Reds. The last time City and United met in the League Cup Semi-Final was January 2010, where a memorable 2-1 victory at home in the first-leg was cancelled out by a 3-1 loss in the second-leg.
Overall, between now and the end of the month, we will see both the 179th and 180th Manchester Derby, with City having won 53, drawn 52 and lost 73 of the past 178 derby fixtures. City have scored 245 goals in that time and conceded 254 with an average goals per game of 1.38.
The current holders haven’t suffered defeat in the League Cup since that derby defeat during Pep Guardiola’s debut season, with 15 straight wins in the competition since. Although Manchester City won’t be thrashing Manchester United 10-0 over the course of the two legs like they did against Burton Albion at this stage last season, there should certainly be room for optimism going into the Semi-Final stage.
City come into the game with seven wins from their last eight games in all competitions, scoring 23 goals over that period. Manchester United on the other hand have only won two of their last five games, with a 0-0 draw to Wolves in the FA Cup third round at the weekend, after suffering a sixth league defeat of the season on New Year’s Day to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal.
Tactically, the game on Tuesday could be extremely intriguing, even more so with the unexpected success Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his side had at the Etihad last month. Manchester United set up in a 4-2-3-1 which at times became a 6-3-1 especially in the second-half. The pace of Marcus Rashford, Dan James and Anthony Martial caused City a right headache at the back, but Pep Guardiola will be hopeful of solving this issue.
Guardiola used his more common 4-3-3 formation in the 2-1 derby defeat, however in recent weeks has utilised a 3-4-2-1 set-up with holding midfielders Rodri and Fernandinho playing at centre-back. This new formation has allowed Kevin De Bruyne to play higher up and with more freedom, as well as offering more success on the flanks with the use of wingbacks.
Mike Dean will take charge of his second ever Manchester Derby, despite closing in on the personal milestone of 500 top-flight games. The vastly experienced official will be joined by assistant referees Ian Hussin and World Cup Final linesman Darren Cann. Lee Mason, who took charge of the on-field duties during City’s 4-1 win over Port Vale at the weekend, will be the Fourth official. Last year’s FA Cup final referee, Kevin Friend, will be the VAR and he will be working alongside Stephen Child.
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