Manchester City go into the League Cup final in March in buoyant mood as they set out to win the first cup in what could lead to an unprecedented quadruple. The blue half of Manchester annihilated West Ham United 9-0 on aggregate in the semi-final, finishing off their 6-0 victory last week with a comprehensive 3-0 win at Upton Park. City will face Sunderland, the victors against City’s neighbors, Manchester United, in the final showpiece at Wembley Stadium.
City boss, Manuel Pellegrini, is riding on the crest of a wave since taking over the hot seat vacated by the much-loved Roberto Mancini with seamless aplomb. The South American is keen to make a statement in his first season, illustrated by the fact he plays a strong team, although that is not difficult given the club’s depth, in every match, whatever the competition. No club in English soccer history has claimed the domestic treble of the Premier League title, FA Cup and League cup plus Europe’s elite competition, the Champions League, in the same season. Pellegrini would like to be the first manager to get his club there.
United won the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in 1999 but fell short in the League Cup. Liverpool also won the domestic title, League Cup and European Cup ,before it was revamped to the Champions League, in 1984, but failed to win the FA Cup. Many, however,would argue that the League Cup has not been a priority for the bigger clubs over the years due to the fact it did not always guarantee a route into European competition. It began to be just seen as a poor relation to the FA Cup. As such, the elite clubs started to blood young players in the competition so they could gain experience. This also meant a lot of the smaller, lowly placed teams advanced further than they would had the big clubs taken the competition seriously.
In recent seasons, in order to raise the profile of the competition, the League Cup has secured a place in the Europa League. It is now seen as a safety net for those clubs unable to break into the top four qualifying spots for Champions League football. It also means the elite clubs have another chance of winning a trophy should they fail to land one of the major cups.
City currently sit in second place in the Premier League, one point behind leaders Arsenal. The bookmakers, however, fancy the Blues to overtake the Londoners and claim a second title in three seasons. Manchester City appear poised and ready to make history with this talented squad.
One major hurdle facing Pellegrini’s resurgent side is the mouth-watering clash with Barcelona in the Champions League. The two-legged affair has been described by the media as the “tie of the round.” The Spanish giants, who are four-time winners of the competition, boast a side featuring Argentine Lionel Messi, viewed by many as the greatest player in the world. Nevertheless, if there is one man who can outwit the Catalan side, it is Pellegrini. The Chilean spent a long-time managing in Spain with clubs like Real Madrid and Malaga on his impressive resume.
Although securing the quadruple would require a herculean effort on the part of Manchester City, they show every sign of being capable of it. Having already broken the 100 goal barrier in January and sett a record aggregate score for a League Cup semi-final, it would take a brave man to bet against them making history again this season.
By Robert Shepherd