Our football pundit previews the EFL Cup final which kicks off on Sunday 25 February 2017.
Arsenal and Manchester City will battle it out in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, four days before they meet again in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium. Pep Guardiola’s side are strong favourites, with the Citizens having brushed aside almost everyone this season, including the Gunners in the Premier League.
But Arsenal have won their last three finals at Wembley and proved against Chelsea in May that they have what it takes to beat the odds to lift a trophy. Wenger’s side are sixth in the Premier League on 45 points, 27 points behind Guardiola’s runaway leaders.
EFL Cup Final | Sunday 25 February | Wembley Stadium | 18:30
To Win (90 mins)
Arsenal 39/10 | Draw 33/10 | Manchester City 6/10
Yes 13/2 | No 1/20
Arsenal suffered heartache at Wembley Stadium in their last Premier League tie, losing 1-0 against noisy neighbours Tottenham. But prior to that game, the Gunners had won nine games in a row at the national stadium. In that streak, Wenger’s side beat Manchester City twice, winning 3-0 in the 2014 Community Shield and 2-1 in last year’s FA Cup which they went on to win.
Wenger has never won the League Cup and only reached the final twice in his 19 full seasons in charge and the Frenchman will be going all out to lift the trophy. The Gunners edged past Doncaster Rovers in the third round of the Carabao Cup thanks to Theo Walcott’s strike.
Wenger’s side looked set for the exit door as they were trailing 1-0 at home to second tier Norwich in the fourth round, but up stepped 18-year-old Edward Nketiah who scored with his first touch in the 85th minute, then again in extra-time.
Arsenal then claimed a hard-fought 1-0 win at the Emirates against London rivals West Ham in the quarter-finals thanks to a first-half goal from Danny Welbeck. The Gunners deservedly booked their place in the final by beating Chelsea 2-1 on aggregate and now just Manchester City stand in their way of winning silverware.
With Alexandre Lacazette ruled out for a couple of weeks, Henrikh Mkhitaryan cup-tied and Aaron Ramsey a major doubt, Arsenal will need Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil at their very best to stand a chance of beating the Citizens.
Manchester City were sensationally knocked out of the FA Cup on Monday by third-tier Wigan Athletic who beat the Premier League leaders 1-0 in a stunning fifth round upset. Fabian Delph was shown a straight red card for a reckless challenge on the stroke of the interval and the Englishman will miss the clash against the Gunners.
Guardiola’s side will be looking to put that FA Cup defeat behind them and outclass Wenger’s side. City have already beaten Arsenal in the Premier League this season, with goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero (penalty) and Gabriel Jesus giving the Citizens a 3-1 win at the Etihad Stadium in November. Last season – Guardiola’s first in charge – City beat the Gunners 2-1 at home and drew 2-2 at the Emirates in the league campaign.
The Citizens started their run in the Carabao Cup with a hard-fought 2-1 victory away to West Brom thanks to a brace from Leroy Sane. Guardiola’s side were then made to sweat in the fourth round as they were held 0-0 at home to Championship leaders Wolves in 90 minutes. Claudio Bravo was the hero, saving two spot-kicks to help his side win 4-1 on penalties to reach the quarter-finals.
City then faced Leicester at the King Power Stadium and were forced into another penalty shootout as they drew 1-1 after 120 minutes of play. Bravo saved his team yet again as the Chilean shot-stopper kept out Riyad Mahrez’s effort to give Guardiola’s side a 4-3 penalty shootout win.
The Citizens booked their place in the Carabao Cup final with a 3-2 win at Bristol City. Goals from Sane, Aguero and De Bruyne secured a 5-3 aggregate triumph and Guardiola’s first cup final in English football.
Verdict: Manchester City Win (6/10)
I’m expecting a close affair with City to come out on top in 90 minutes.