Manchester City welcome Newcastle United to The Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night in the Capital One Cup. After the third round demolition of Sheffield Wednesday, this game represents the next step in the Blues’ bid to defend the trophy won last March.
You may have noticed, but City haven’t had a great week. You’ll remember that a week ago they held a comfortable 2-0 lead in Moscow before pulling out a sizeable firearm, loading it and aiming it with precision at both feet before slowly pulling the trigger. That the Blues only took one point when they should have had three left their Champions League dreams balanced delicately on the precipice. That was followed by a defeat at West Ham that left fans frustrated and, frankly, a little bit angry.
With those recent disappointments in mind, it isn’t too outlandish to suggest that the Capital One Cup tie against Newcastle United will carry just a little bit more pressure than you might normally expect. If City were flying in all competitions then the Capital One Cup would surely be seen as the last priority. However, Newcastle have been in poor form throughout 2014 and so any slip up for the Champions at The Etihad Stadium would represent a serious and hugely unwelcome shock. On the flip side, it could and probably should provide a great springboard to steer everything nicely back on course.
The main topic of discussion before any game in this competition tends to be based around team selection. The fact that it is widely regarded as the least glamorous trophy available for the so-called big clubs lends itself to significant squad rotation. You can pretty much guarantee that Willy Caballero will start in net, then anything after that becomes educated guesswork.
Bacary Sagna would seem likely to start at right-back and Martin Demichelis will probably expect a starting berth too. Pellegrini has confirmed that Samir Nasri is working with the squad and is available for selection; great news for everybody apart from James Milner, who will suddenly find himself with increased competition for a place he has worked so hard to keep. Whether Nasri will start or be brought on for the latter stages of the game is not clear, but I’d be surprised if the manager missed the opportunity to give him some game time ahead of the Manchester derby on Sunday.
Though trying to work out Manuel Pellegrini’s thought process is often the benchmark for exercises in futility, it would seem realistic to assume Sergio Agüero won’t start. The weekend’s fixture against Manchester United will surely be looming large in the manager’s thoughts, despite his insistence that his only concern at the moment is this cup tie. Agüero’s form means that he can’t miss that game so I’d wager that will mean Jovetic and Džeko will get the nod on Wednesday.
What of the visitors then? They are a notoriously poor cup team and, despite an upturn in league results over the last few weeks, they still do not present themselves as a happy club. Toon supporters continue to protest against Alan Pardew’s management of the team and Mike Ashley’s stewardship of the club. It appears that the vast majority of their season will involve a fight to stay in the Premier League so, against a backdrop of dismay from the St. James Park faithful, one could be forgiven for thinking Newcastle’s management will be placing very few eggs in the Capital One Cup’s basket this season.
City can ill-afford another bad result, especially in front of their home fans. That said, whilst guarding against complacency, everything seems set for the current holders to return to winning ways in the Capital One Cup.
written by Richard Burns