Holders Manchester City play Chelsea in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final at Wembley. Here, Press Association Sport looks at five talking points ahead of the final.
Serial winner versus late bloomer
Pep Guardiola has won every club honour during his management career, with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Maurizio Sarri, 60, has never won a trophy, belatedly getting his chance at the top level with Empoli, Napoli and now Chelsea. The pair are friends – Arrigo Sacchi is a shared mentor – and share a similar, possession-based philosophy. Sarri has taken the advice of Guardiola in his first season in England, to concentrate on 14 players.
Predictable, yet totally unpredictable
Chelsea are perhaps the epitome of a cup side. They are recklessly inconsistent, but capable of beating the top teams. Sarri has stuck stubbornly to the 4-3-3 formation he favours, with Jorginho as a central playmaker and N’Golo Kante played out of position in right midfield, despite the Frenchman proving to be the best defensive midfielder in the world. Results are unpredictable. Chelsea beat City 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in December, but lost 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium on February 10.
City travel to Germany to face Schalke for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday night, while Chelsea face Malmo in the second leg of their Europa League last-32 tie on Thursday night, three days after the 2-0 loss to Manchester United Monday’s FA Cup tie. Guardiola has a full squad of players he can rely upon; Sarri, going by recent performances, has none. With Sarri focusing his energies on a core group and jettisoning serial achiever Gary Cahill, Premier League-winning midfielder Danny Drinkwater and others, squad strength could determine success in the cup.
Since Swansea beat Bradford 5-0 to win the 2013 League Cup, only once have the competition’s winners finished the season with just the one trophy. In 2014, City won the League Cup and Premier League title; it was Chelsea who did likewise in 2015; Manchester United won the League Cup and Europa League in 2017; and, City won the League Cup and Premier League in 2018. City, under Manuel Pellegrini, were the exception in 2016.
The end? The continuation?
It will take a dramatic turn in fortunes and results for Sarri to continue in his job. The 60-year-old’s seven-month tenure started promisingly, but has featured embarrassing results which mean even victory in the League Cup might not spare him the axe. A return to the Champions League will be Chelsea’s priority. For City, the League Cup is about sweeping silverware and a staging post en route to further glories domestically and in Europe.