Manchester City, Leicester favourites to reach League Cup final
LONDON – Manchester City and Leicester City go into their respective League Cup semi-finals as big favourites to reach the first final of the season.
Holders Manchester City face neighbours and close rivals Manchester United in the first leg of their semi-final on Tuesday while Leicester face Aston Villa in their first leg the following night.
With Liverpool seemingly running away with the Premier League title, Leicester and Manchester City, second and third in the table, know that the League Cup could be their best bet for glory this season.
United won at Manchester City in the Premier League last month, using their pace to hit City on the break.
And City manager Pep Guardiola said his side should expect United to play the same way even though the first leg is at Old Trafford.
"It will be quite similar," Guardiola told reporters.
"It is a team that is built to run. When they can run, they are one of the best teams, not just in England, because of the pace they have with (Daniel) James, with (Mason) Greenwood, (Anthony) Martial, (Marcus) Rashford and (Jesse) Lingard.
"There are two games. We have to go there and try to take a good result for the second leg here with our fans to try and reach the final of this competition for the third year in a row."
United have struggled in the Premier League this season and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said they need to ensure they are still in the contest after 90 minutes at Old Trafford.
"You always want to win trophies and we're so close now but having local derbies in semi-finals are hopefully going to be two good games and two good days in Manchester," he said.
"There are two games so we have to know when this game finishes it's half-time, we have still got to go to Etihad, finish the job off if we do well tomorrow.
"It's a two-game tie but just focus on this one because it's three weeks until the next one."
Leicester midfielder Marc Albrighton will face his former club when Aston Villa arrive at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday.
Albrighton admits the Christmas programme, which included back-to-back defeats by Manchester City and Liverpool, had stretched the club's resources.
But three straight wins since has restored confidence to the club and the chance to reach a final has everyone excited.
"It's going to be a difficult game and it's going to be a good game.
"The atmosphere will be electric as always here under the lights, so we can expect a big occasion.
"But we need to again be professional and make sure we don't slip up and make sure that we get the job done there as well."
Villa are the surprise member of the four remaining clubs but having gone out of the FA Cup at the weekend with a much-changed side, they are focusing everything on the semi-final.
"Listen, I don't like losing in any competition but I think everyone could see from the selection and squad we brought here it wasn't the top of our priority," Villa manager Dean Smith said after their loss to Fulham on Saturday.
"I've had to rest some of those (top) players to make sure they're ready. We have two semi-finals in the Carabao Cup and four or five key Premier League games in January.
"It's a really important month for us."DPA