Manchester City’s quadruple dream may be over but now their focus is on ensuring the season’s first piece of silverware will be theirs again when they take on one of their supposed ‘big six’ rivals, Tottenham, in the EFL Cup final on Sunday (City 1/2, Tottenham 5/1, draw 3/1 – Match odds).
City’s attempt at creating history and winning four major trophies in one season was ended by Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and they quickly had to move on when they got their minds back on wrapping up the Premier League title when they visited Aston Villa on Wednesday.
That match – eventually – went their way as they overcame some decent Villa resistance to win 2-1, coming from behind thanks to goals from Phil Foden and Rodri after John McGinn had fired the home side in front after just 20 seconds.
Quite rightly, Pep Guardiola’s side are favourites to win the Carabao Cup back at the scene of their disappointing 1-0 defeat against Chelsea just over a week later and it would take a brave tipster to suggest Tottenham can end their long wait for a trophy by causing an upset.
However, it’s clear the Citizens are not firing fully on all cylinders at the moment and, to give rookie Spurs boss Ryan Mason some hope, here’s the evidence, in two parts.
1. Prior to edging Villa, they had seen their lead at the top of the Premier League closed down to just eight points, with rivals Manchester United also having a game in hand. No one was suggesting Guardiola’s side were going to throw the title away but they have definitely taken their foot off the gas in recent weeks while others have improved.
2. They are not unbeatable. Leeds demonstrated (with 10 men) when winning 2-1 at the Etihad earlier in the month that they can be got at if you have a sound defensive base and then pace and power on the break. Chelsea did another tactical job on them in the semi, while they fell behind early against both Dortmund and Villa recently to suggest they’re starting games slowly.
Yes, we’re being picky. But you can also add in the fact John Stones is now suspended for the final after his red card on Wednesday to weaken Guardiola’s options, while there are signs Pep’s rotation is just having a slight negative impact at times with their usual rhythm not always evident in every game.
For those eyeing a Tottenham victory (Spurs to win 1-0 – 16/1), it could also be said the newly-appointed Mason is likely to enjoy the sort of ‘new boss bounce’ we often see over the next few games. He watched on as his team turned in a pretty poor opening half against Southampton in his debut in the dugout on Wednesday before they came out in the second half and managed to turn it around to keep their top-four hopes alive.
There’s nothing better for confidence than a last-minute winner in a must-win game and, taking that into a cup final, should mean their confidence levels are soaring in the immediate post-Jose Mourinho era.
However, Spurs could also be without their star striker Harry Kane (9/5 – To score anytime) at Wembley as he suffered an ankle injury last week and that would be a major pre-match boost for City.
All things considered, City’s Cup final nous – this is their ninth domestic cup final appearance in 10 years – should give them the edge and they remain determined to win the treble. But don’t expect a straightforward victory against a Tottenham outfit, released of Jose’s shackles, desperate to prove they are a big six team after all.