It’s Sarri vs Guardiola in the first cup final of the season
Manchester City and Chelsea meet in the Carabao Cup final tomorrow afternoon in England’s first cup final of the season.
Pep Guardiola’s side are the current holders of the competition and are looking to retain their title as they look to win an unprecedented quadruple.
Victory for City would mean they have won the competition in four of the last five years and take their total to success in the competition to six. That would be the new second-most wins behind Liverpool on eight.
They head into the game in good form having closed the gap on Liverpool at the top of the Premier League and won the first leg of their Champions League knockout game in the past week.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are a club in crisis. Despite sitting just a point outside the top four and having progressed in the Europa League, Maurizio Sarri remains a man under pressure.
Defeat here could mean the end of his tenure, especially given the 6-0 hammering his side suffered at the hands of City just two weeks ago.
Victory, though, would not only ease the pressure but take Chelsea to a sixth title in the competition themselves.
Manchester City will be without John Stones, Benjamin Mendy and Gabriel Jesus who are doubtful with groin, knee and hamstring injuries respectively.
Guardiola also has a decision to make in goal. Ederson is the obvious number one but has been replaced by Arijanet Muric. It will be a test of the City’s manager’s desire to see who starts here.
Chelsea have a goalkeeper issue of their own with Kepa Arrizabalaga having picked up an injury in midweek. Should he not make it, Willy Caballero, the man whose display in the final secured the title for City in 2016, will feature.
There are also doubts over both Pedro and Davide Zappacosta who are both suffering from illness.
What the managers said
While the rest of the world called advantage to City after their win two weeks ago, Guardiola was not so optimistic:
“I don’t like to play the same team in a short period of time when you have beaten them before,” he said.
“They [Chelsea] are incredibly professional players, they are proud and bright and will do extra. We are going to play the type of game you have to play in a final and try to win the title.
“Of course it is not the most important title of the season, but once we are here in an amazing stadium against a top side, we want to prepare to win.”
Sarri, meanwhile, was focused on his team’s performance against Malmo and warned they cannot afford a repeat of the slow start they had in that game.
“[It would be] a disaster, of course,” he said.
“I think that we played the first 30 minutes without confidence. Nervous. We were unable to move the ball very fast. We were in trouble on their pressing.
Then a little bit better in the last 15 minutes of the first half and then, after the first goal, very well.”
This is the first time these two teams have met in the final of this competition, despite the fact they’ve won it a combined ten times each.
Manchester City have the opportunity to become the first team to win the League Cup in consecutive years since Manchester United in 2009/2010.
A win for City would make this the most successful cup competition in their history. It would take them to six victories overall, more than their five league titles or FA Cups.
This is the first time Chelsea have been in the final of the competition since 2015 when they beat Tottenham Hotspur.
A win for Sarri’s side would help them to their sixth success in this competition as a club. They have the same number of league titles.