Manchester City’s quest for a fourth straight Carabao Cup title faces its biggest challenge yet: a Manchester Derby in the semifinal.
Manchester City have a real opportunity to make history. Their level of dominance in the Carabao Cup is nearly without precedent, as if they can lift the trophy for the fourth straight season, it will tie the all-time competition record set by the great Liverpool teams of the early 1980’s. Standing in their way at the semi-final stage, however, is a familiar foe: arch-rivals Manchester United.
City faced the Red Devils at this stage of the competition last season, emerging 3-1 victors in a thrilling first leg tie at Old Trafford before seeing out the result despite a 1-0 second-leg defeat. That match at Old Trafford was arguably City’s best performance of the season last year, and they will need to find that level again as they face an in-form United side.
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United are currently level at the top of the Premier League on points with Liverpool, but with the defending champions’ 1-0 loss to Southampton, United now have a game in hand and the chance to create a three-point lead at the top of the league. City have also been much improved, and can pass Liverpool by winning both of their two games in hand. With this week focused on cup fixtures, however, that opportunity will need to wait.
Both teams have played well since their lifeless 0-0 draw in the league in December, and this fixture looks set for far more fireworks. City have less to prove in this competition than United, who will be desperate for a trophy, but the chance to make history and simultaneously knock out the team’s greatest rival is a tantalizing prospect.
Predicted XI: Zack Steffen (GK), João Cancelo (RB), John Stones (CB), Rúben Dias (CB), Oleksandr Zinchenko (LB), İlkay Gündoğan (CDM), Rodri (CDM), Bernardo Silva (CAM), Raheem Sterling (RW), Kevin De Bruyne (CF), Phil Foden (LW)