League Cup gives Man city chance to kick-start season. There are two ways to look at Manchester City’s season to date.
On the one hand, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have underperformed. Despite spending almost £150m in the summer, City currently have four points fewer than they did at this stage last term and nine fewer than they did after 23 matches in 2013/14, the year they last won the Premier League title. They have been suspect defensively and possess a mediocre record away from home, while the feeling that their collective amounts to less than the sum of its individual parts persists.
On the flip side, though, City are just three points off the summit of the Premier League standings and through to the fourth round of the FA Cup, with Aston Villa their opponents this Saturday. They also looked well placed to advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League ahead of their last 16 tie with Dynamo Kiev, and are potentially one victory away from the League Cup final. Success on four fronts still remains a possibility as the business end of the campaign approaches.
It is to the latter competition that City have now turned their attention, with the second leg of their League Cup semi-final with Everton taking place at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday. Roberto Martinez’s charges hold a 2-1 lead following the first 90 minutes of the tie; whether or not City can turn the deficit around to progress could be an important moment in their season.
It is probably no coincidence that their only recent triumph in this tournament came just months before the Premier League title was attained in 2014, with the League Cup often acting as a platform for clubs to go on to achieve greater success in the weeks and months that follow.
Beating Everton would not guarantee silverware, of course, but City would be favourites in the Wembley showpiece against either Liverpool or Stoke City, who face off at Anfield on Tuesday. A team that contains as much talent as City’s does must now show a ruthless side, with the pressure firmly on the players and Pellegrini ahead of this week’s crunch clash.
There has been much talk of the Chilean being replaced by Pep Guardiola in the summer, with stories of that nature almost certain to continue appearing in the media between now and the end of the season. Pellegrini has dealt with the constant speculation about his future with admirable restraint and dignity, but his reputation would be boosted even further if he could depart the Etihad in May not only with his head held high but also with additional items in City’s trophy cabinet.
Former Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes was able to do something similar three years ago, when it was announced that Guardiola would be taking the reins at the Allianz Arena at the end of the 2012/13 campaign. Despite knowing he would be retiring and replaced just a few short months later, Heynckes was able to guide Bayern to a historic treble of Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal, something that even Guardiola has so far been unable to replicate in his two full seasons at the helm.
The end at City does appear to be nigh for Pellegrini, but a successful run of results both domestically and in Europe – starting with the second leg of the League Cup semi-final with Everton on Wednesday – on the way to a couple of trophies would at least ensure the Chilean goes out on a high.