Hit-and-miss Man City seek League Cup comeback
Thoughts of the 2013-14 run-in will be inspiring Manchester City’s players as they attempt to overturn a 2-1 deficit in Wednesday’s League Cup semi-final second leg against Everton.
Then, as now, City are chasing glory on four fronts and while they fell short in the Champions League and FA Cup two years ago, League Cup glory was to prove a precursor to victory in the Premier League title race.
Should Everton pull off a repeat of the 0-0 draw they recorded at the Etihad Stadium two weeks ago, they will progress to a first League Cup final since 1984, but City defender Nicolas Otamendi is confident that he and his team-mates now have the measure of Roberto Martinez’s men.
“The first leg, away at Everton, wasn’t good for us and we didn’t play anywhere near as well as we can, but we must think there are still 90 minutes to go and we can do it,” the Argentine told the City website.
“Everton are a good side and didn’t get to the semi-finals by luck. They travel very well and have only lost once in the league on the road all season, so we know we face a battle.
“I think the major factor will be home advantage. We need our fans to make plenty of noise, get behind us from the first moment and lift us when we need it.”
City drew 2-2 at West Ham United on Saturday, leaving them three points below league leaders Leicester City, and they have not recorded back-to-back wins in the league since mid-October.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side remain troublingly porous in the continued absence of Vincent Kompany, as shown by West Ham’s second goal, when Otamendi allowed a throw-in to bounce over him and Enner Valencia scored.
But they can at least rely on Sergio Aguero to dig them out of a hole, the Argentina striker scoring twice at Upton Park to take his tally to four goals in two games.
Romelu Lukaku’s 78th-minute header in the first leg means a draw will take Everton into the final, where either Liverpool or Stoke City await.
– ‘That’s where we are’ -But Everton, too, are fragile, having slid to 12th in the Premier League after just one win in 10 league games.
The latest setback, on Sunday, was particularly galling, a 2-1 home defeat against a Swansea City team fighting to keep their heads above water, and midfielder Gareth Barry admits that it was less than ideal preparation.
“The ideal world going into a game like Wednesday would be with a win,” said the former City player.
“There is nothing better than going into games on a winning run, when you are feeling confident, but that’s where we are at the moment. We have got to go into a League Cup semi-final on the back of a defeat.
“We focus on a huge game against Man City, and hopefully we can get the fans positive again and then return to the league.”
One positive for Everton against Swansea was the return of full-back Seamus Coleman after three games out with a calf injury, even if the Irishman did volley a glorious stoppage-time chance over the bar.
Midfielder Muhamed Besic (hamstring) and winger Kevin Mirallas (knee) will both miss the trip to Manchester after being forced off by injury in the first half on Sunday.
But captain Phil Jagielka is due to return after being rested against Swansea and Everton’s fans will hope that his presence will help to settle John Stones, who has turned in some nervy performances of late.
Fernandinho returned to the bench for City at West Ham after three games out with a muscular problem.
But Aleksandar Kolarov (calf) has joined fellow defenders Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala (hamstring) on the sidelines, along with midfielder Samir Nasri (hamstring) and striker Wilfried Bony (calf).