The quest for a fifth consecutive and record-breaking Carabao Cup triumph continues as Manchester City face West Ham on Wednesday night at the London Stadium. Here's all you need to know ahead of the clash:
Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Venue: London Stadium
UK TV: N/A
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Assistants: Marc Perry and Timothy Wood
Fourth Official: Andre Marriner
Pep to use the youth
Those who went to City's clash with Wycombe caught a live glimpse of the club's latest batch of youth talents which included the likes of James Mcatee, Joshua Wilson-Esbrand, Luke Mbete, Cole Palmer, Finley Burns, Romeo Lavia and Conrad Egan-Riley. It's highly unlikely all of the above will play against West Ham given the stature of the opposition in stark comparison to our last opponents in this competition, Wycombe Wanderers. This game will give a strong indication of those that Pep truly has in his plans though and a couple we can expect to feature, rather than blindly hope for, is Cole Palmer, with the rest of the EDS in action on Tuesday night. Pep Guardiola has a plethora of talent to keep happy and when the players the ilk of John Stones, Nathan Ake, Riyad Mahrez, club captain Fernandinho and Oleksandr Zinchenko can barely earn a start in the league, they'll most likely play in these cup games as Pep rotates his favoured XI. Palmer and McAtee are understood to be extremely highly rated in the academy though and the former has clocked up Premier League and Champions League minutes over the last weeks, so he's almost nailed when Pep says he'll use the youth. It's anyone's guess really after that.
Projected XI: Steffen, Walker, Stones, Ake, Zinchenko, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Palmer, Foden, Sterling (4-3-3)
City's dominance points to another victory
It's now been over five years since City last lost a Carabao Cup tie - a third-round exit to Manchester United in 2016. Since then City have won every match they've played in the competition, winning the last four editions of the cup (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021). Pep Guardiola has the know-how and the squad to dominate this competition and every year the boss takes this competition as seriously as any other. It's perhaps the Blues' ability to rotate and still keep a high level of talent on the pitch at all times that's given them an advantage over their rivals but if they choose to rotate and lose, that's not our fault.
City's Carabao Cup dominance also translates to their dominance in this fixture. City have won all but one of the matches played on this turf - a 1-1 draw in October 2020, a time where Eric Garcia was playing at centre-back, the only scratch on Pep's impeccable record here. The aggregate score of the other meetings at the London Stadium between these two is 22-1 in the Blues' favour - a pair of 5-0 wins, a pair of 4-0 wins and a 4-1 win. More of the same on Wednesday night. It would be a huge disservice to West Ham to say it’ll be another blowout and given their drastic improvement under David Moyes, they could trouble a rotated City side if they choose to name a strong XI.
Keys to the match
Dealing with Antonio: Nathan Aké has been in and out of the City side throughout the season and the centre-back has had his struggles whenever he’s played. He was part of a defence that conceded three at home to RB Leipzig & he’s not the strongest centre-back City have. Whether it’s him or an academy centre-back, Michail Antonio has the tools to bully that defender if he sticks to them and West Ham will look to exploit that left side of the pitch. Adebayo Akinfenwa had strength but didn’t have the athletic tools or the prowess of a Premier League striker to cause too many problems but Antonio has the know-how and the goal-scoring instinct to make City pay, just like he did at the London Stadium last season. City will do their best to isolate him and prevent any service to limit his threat.
How the teams line-up: It’s fairly obvious to suggest that if both sides are at full strength, City have the attacking threat and defence that would surely safely see them into the fifth round. This game is extremely well-poised though, and we’re not too sure until the XIs release on Wednesday how City or the home side will line up. Pep’s said he’ll use the youth - if Moyes and West Ham go for it and City rotate too much then there may be a huge upset on the cards. The challenge for Pep Guardiola will be to find the right balance in whatever XI he picks - a team that would see the Blues through whilst giving youngsters their chance to show off on the elite stage.
The Kevin De Bruyne factor: Rested at Brighton. 60 minutes in Brugge. The Belgian, who is still gearing up following that serious ankle problem in the summer, is set to return to the City XI as one of the experienced pros for this game and his presence alone will give Guardiola’s side an edge. Even without the supreme physical gifts that he’s had in previous years, the playmaker still can pick out a man and decide a game with one pinpoint cross, or a cute threaded through ball to the open man. West Ham will simply not be able to be as expressive as they were at Old Trafford in the last round because if they are, they’ll be paying less attention to one of the greatest passers and creators the game’s ever seen, and they’ll have to stay locked onto him all game. Declan Rice has a crucial job to do in this game - when Kevin De Bruyne has started at the London Stadium, City have won every time.
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