Manchester City, holding a 3 -1 lead from the first leg, will entertain neighbours Manchester United in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final on Wednesday, 29th January. The match will kick-off at 7.45 pm local time.
City, winners of the Cup for the past two years, and four times in the past six seasons, are odds-on favourites to lift the trophy again on March 1st at Wembley, having cruised to this stage with victories over Preston North End, Southampton, and League One side Oxford United.
However, when the two sides met before Christmas, on this same ground, it was United who came out on top, catching the champions early with a high pressing game, and harrying them into mistakes all over the pitch. It was probably Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s most impressive win as United manager, but there was no repeat of that performance in the first-leg, as his side were out-classed by their neighbours.
Despite the away side choosing to play without any conventional strikers, with both Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus sat on the bench, City’s fluid midfield ran United ragged in the first-half, and they raced into a commanding three goal lead before half-time, with goals from Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez, and an own goal from Andreas Pereira. United were fortunate that the score at the interval was not worse.
They took their foot off the gas in the second half, and allowed United more possession and time on the ball, with Marcus Rashford pulling a goal back for the home side, still it was their supporters who were on their feet cheering at the end, whilst United’s slinked away into the night.
City know that, barring a collapse of epic proportions by Liverpool, that their defence of their Premier League title is over for the season. Therefore, they will be switching their attention to the cups, with the FA Cup and the Champions League, as well as the EFL Cup, all in their sights.
On the other side of Manchester, the knives are out, with manager Solskjaer and the club’s board all coming under fire from the team’s supporters and pundits, with former players strident in their criticism of the club’s transfer policy. They may currently be fifth in the Premier League, but few would give them much hope of finishing in the Champions League places at the end of the season, especially as they have now lost main striker Rashford to a back injury which may rule him out until April.
Without him, the club are dependent for goals on the inconsistent and often injured Anthony Martial, and the teenager Mason Greenwood, who is a talent but still very inexperienced at this level. And, with the prospect of signing a striker in January unlikely, finding the net for United could be a problem until Rashford returns.
In truth, it is difficult to build much of a case for United to win this match. They could try and use December’s derby victory as a blueprint, but, without Rashford, they do not pose the same attacking threat. And City will be ready for them this time. And City will be ready for them this time. This is why the recommendation for punters looking to bet on this match is to place their funds on City as the likelihood of them winning does seem higher in this point.
The result of this tie overall is probably already foregone, but how the match pans out on the night itself may depend on City’s attitude. They could just cruise through the tie, saving their legs for the games ahead. Or, knowing there is the mid-season break coming-up, they could go for the jugular, and look to inflict another damaging defeat on United.
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Man City are odds-on favourite to win. According to bet365, Manchester United are 13/2 to win the game while Guardiola’s men are 1/3 to win the home tie.