Another year older, another year wiser and another appearance in the Carabao Cup final is on the horizon for Manchester City. After a rocky December, the season has sparked into a resurgence and now City stand poised to win the first piece of silverware in a potentially trophy-laden campaign. The opponents are a familiar foe – Chelsea. It will be the third meeting between two sides in as many months and after a 6-0 demolition at the Etihad, the question on everyone’s lips is whether Chelsea will have the nerve to respond or whether City will display their dominance once again.
The issues at Chelsea are well known and it seems as if the speculation surrounding head coach Maurizio Sarri’s job has been non-stop since the turn of the year. Fuel was added to the fire after the dismantling they suffered at the hands of City and now talk of an incoming transfer ban has surfaced.
With all this in mind, it is arguably the best possible time to play Chelsea. City will surely have the mental edge thanks to the 6-0 romp and with Chelsea’s coach, club and fans all seemingly at loggerheads with one another, the ingredients are there for a repeat performance.
Regarding the availability of players, not much was confirmed by Pep Guardiola during his pre-match press conference. Benjamin Mendy, John Stones and Gabriel Jesus were all unavailable for Wednesday’s match against Schalke but Pep could not confirm whether they would be available for Sunday. He went on to state that they will be assessed after training on Saturday.
Chelsea are also facing injury concerns of their own. They could potentially be without the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga. The Spaniard missed the UEFA Europa League tie against Malmö FF on Thursday with a hamstring problem. This opens the door for ex-City keeper Willy Caballero to retain his place in the side and maybe play spoiler for his former teammates. Pedro and Davide Zappacosta also missed the game against Malmö FF and their inclusion will depend on whether they can shake off the illness that kept them at home on Thursday.
Even with those absences, the threat Chelsea pose is still a serious one; despite what the most recent result suggests. A team that has the attacking qualities of Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain should never be underestimated and I’m sure Pep Guardiola, his coaching staff and the players are well aware of just how big a challenge it will be on Sunday to retain the Carabao Cup.
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