After the Kevin De Bruyne masterclass at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday evening, Manchester City welcome the warm embrace of their familiar love – the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night.
Pep Guardiola’s side travel to Oxford United, as they bid to successfully defend the cup for the third year running and once more savour the sweet nectar of Carabao.
Leroy Sane completed his first on-the-pitch training session on Monday, but the German winger remains unavailable for the foreseeable future; as does Aymeric Laporte. John Stones and David Silva also remain out. Oleksandr Zinchenko will be hoping to make his first start since he returned from his injury.
Oxford United’s top-scorer James Henry is a doubt for Wednesday with a thigh strain. He would join Anthony Forde, Jamie Hanson, George Thorne and Liverpool loanee Ben Woodburn on the sidelines. Cameron Brannagan and Shandon Baptiste, however, should be fit after missing the weekend’s match with MK Dons.
Predicted line-up: Bravo; Cancelo, Garcia, Stones, Angelino; Zinchenko, Foden, Gundogan; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling.
Head to Head
Forty-nine places separate Oxford United from Manchester City in England’s football pyramid. The two sides met last season in the third round of the Carabao Cup. Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden were the scorers that day in a 3-0 victory.
This game will be the fifteenth meeting between the sides, beginning in 1974 with a 5-2 away success for City in the FA Cup. The last time the two clubs faced off in the league, Oxford defeated City 2-0 at Maine Road in 1998 – a humbling reminder of the unfathomable rise to football’s elite Manchester’s finest have made in the twentieth century.
A 1-0 defeat against MK Dons on Saturday ended an undefeated run of eleven matches and deprived Oxford of a spot in League One’s play-off places. It was a rare blank for Oxford in front of goal, and they will hope to amend that, irrespective of the outcome against Manchester City. Oxford will be buoyed by their cup run so far. Karl Robinson’s team humiliated Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham 4-0 en route to tonight’s quarter-final tie, and they also overcame the knuckle-dragging Millwall.
City will be aiming to snowball momentum following Sunday’s 3-0 victory against managerless Arsenal. The wound inflicted by last week’s derby defeat has yet to fully heal, so City will want to win and keep winning in order to psychologically refresh themselves. The professionalism displayed in the competition’s performances against Preston and Southampton should be repeated.
Oxford form (All Competitions): WWWLDL
Man City form (All Competitions): DDWLWW
Pep Guardiola will take the opportunity to shuffle his squad tonight, but he can be expected to stick with a familiar 4-3-3 set-up. There is no sign that City are taking this game for granted. Guardiola claimed in his press conference that Oxford have ‘changed a little bit the way they played last season…anything can happen’. Whether it’s a Carabao clash against a League One side or a Champions League punch-up with Real Madrid, it’s a safe bet that Guardiola will have done his homework on the opponents.
Phil Foden will seek to extend his impressive form, as he stakes his claim for a regular starting spot in David Silva’s absence. Riyad Mahrez should also be motivated to put in a strong showing. Bernardo Silva’s lagging performances have made City’s right-wing berth open to competition, unlike last season when the Portuguese midfielder’s brilliance made the position virtually incontestable. Zinchenko could be deployed in the heart of midfield, as he often is for the Ukrainian national team.
Oxford, meanwhile, may be daunted by City’s attacking prowess but they will fancy their chances against a City backline that is far from watertight, and which will likely feature Cancelo alongside a youthful trio of Garcia, Harwood-Bellis and Angelino or Zinchenko.
Oxford have recorded eighteen goals in their eight league games at the Kassam Stadium, and have kept five consecutive clean sheets there. Only Peterborough United have outscored Oxford in League One this season. Moreover,
according to WhoScored.com I’ve watched a lot of Oxford this season and they are a strong counter attacking side. Should City lack a clinical edge, Karl Robinson’s side will seek to pounce at the other end.
Score Prediction: Oxford United 1-3 Manchester City
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