Manchester City VS Tottenham Hotspur, EFL Cup final at Wembley

Posted Sun, 25 Apr 2021 09:17:23 GMT        

Match Time:4/25/2021 23:30 Sunday  (GMT+8)

England League Cup --  Manchester City   VS   Tottenham Hotspur

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At the end of a week like no other in football, Manchester City take on Tottenham Hotspur in the EFL Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

 

As the dust begins to settle on the remarkably rapid rise and fall of the European Super League, two of the complicit clubs go head to head in a fixture which at one stage seemed threatened by their potential involvement in the short-lived breakaway attempt.

 

As it is, 8,000 fans will grace Wembley for the first major cup final of the 2020-21 English football season, with Man City out to make history and Spurs looking to end a trophy drought which stretches back 13 years.

 

Match preview

 

Usually scheduled for the end of February or early March, this season's EFL Cup final has been pushed back specifically to allow fans back into the stadium and, in a week where the importance and influence of supporters has been underlined more firmly than ever, the return of 8,000 of them to Wembley will be welcomed by everyone in the game.

 

There is still bound to be some residual anger in the air from both sets of fans following the attempted Super League coup d'etat, and Sunday will give them the first chance to voice that during an actual match, but for the managers and players on both sides there is the business of winning a trophy to focus on.

 

For Spurs, that has been a rarity in recent seasons, and in a tumultuous week for football as a whole, they have typically added even more drama to events by sacking Jose Mourinho just six days before Sunday's final.

 

Mourinho had become only the third manager to reach the final of this competition with three different clubs when Spurs beat Brentford in the semi-final in January, putting him on course to lift the trophy for a fifth time from just five finals.

 

However, if the past week has shown us anything it is how quickly things can move in football, and the near four-month gap since those semi-finals seems like a lifetime ago now.

 

When these two sides booked their place in the final they also sat level on points in the Premier League table; now there are 24 points separating them with Man City marching on to a possible treble and Spurs battling to salvage their season.

 

It is that league form which ultimately convinced Daniel Levy to pull the trigger on Monday as Mourinho became the 10th managerial casualty of his 20-year reign.

 

In a week when Levy's position has come under particularly fierce scrutiny, it is worth pointing out that those 20 years have yielded just one trophy - the 2008 League Cup - with Spurs currently on their longest silverware drought since the 1950s.

 

Twenty-nine-year-old Ryan Mason was the unlikely man drafted in to try to end that drought, and in just his second game at the helm he is looking to succeed where his predecessors Harry Redknapp, Andre Villas-Boas, Tim Sherwood, Mauricio Pochettino and Mourinho all failed in bringing a major trophy back to North London.

 

Mason was in the Spurs midfield when they were beaten by Mourinho's Chelsea in their last domestic cup final in 2015 - one of three major finals they have reached since their 2008 triumph, all of which they have lost without scoring a goal.

 

Tottenham have also lost six of their last seven domestic cup matches at Wembley, although it is a stadium which will feel like home to them, having occupied it while their Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was being completed.

 

The early signs have looked good under Mason too, with the former midfielder making a winning start to his reign in midweek as his Harry Kane-less side came from behind to beat Southampton courtesy of a late Son Heung-min penalty.

 

Gareth Bale, who scored their equaliser, appeared to aim a thinly-veiled dig at the departed Mourinho by talking up Tottenham's attacking intent in that game, with Spurs registering their most touches in an opposition box in a Premier League game this season.

 

Whether Mason is brave enough to attack a team like Man City in the same way is a different story, but Spurs do have the peculiar omen of winning trophies in the opening year of a new decade which the more superstitious members of their squad might take comfort from.

 

Eight of the 16 major trophies Spurs have ever won have come in those such years - including 1951, 1961, 1971, 1981 and 1991 - although that trend has so far deserted them in the 21st Century.

 

Indeed, while one of the purposes of the Super League was to eliminate 'David vs. Goliath' contests, on recent history this could easily be painted as one.

 

Since Tottenham's last piece of silverware, Man City have been the subject of a transformative takeover, evolved into one of Europe's powerhouses and won 14 trophies, including the Premier League four times and the EFL Cup on five occasions.

 

Indeed, they have now won the League Cup more often than any other major trophy in their history, and victory on Sunday would equal Liverpool's records for most wins overall (eight) and most consecutive wins (four).

 

It is a similar story in the dugout now that Mourinho has been denied his latest showdown with his old foe Pep Guardiola.

 

Mason became the Premier League's youngest ever manager - and just the second person to manage a top-flight game while in their 20s since the Second World War - during the victory over Southampton on Wednesday, but in only his second game at the helm finds himself up against the master in a cup final.

 

Guardiola is bidding for the 30th trophy of his illustrious managerial career and his ninth as Man City boss this weekend, and he looks certain to add to that tally further this season.

 

While a quadruple is now off the cards following their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea last weekend, it seems like only a matter of time before they wrap up the Premier League crown having returned to winning ways against Aston Villa in midweek.

 

With the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain looming next week, the prospect of another treble is still on, but they first must complete the job against Spurs on Sunday.

 

Guardiola's record in this competition is formidable, having lifted the trophy three seasons in a row and lost only two of his 24 League Cup matches overall, one of which was a semi-final second-leg defeat which still saw Man City through to the final last season.

 

However, Guardiola made no secret of the fact that this competition is now at the very bottom of his priority list, coming as it does this season at the same time as the Premier League title run-in and the latter stages of the Champions League.

 

That is in sharp contrast to Tottenham, for whom success in this match could come to define their season should they miss out on a Champions League spot in the Premier League.

 

The prospect of ending that long trophy drought also makes this a much bigger occasion for Spurs than it is for Man City, but whether that is enough for them to overcome the odds facing them remains to be seen.

 

Both clubs are appearing in their ninth League Cup final in total - only Liverpool have played in more - but the more recent history in major tournaments could barely be more different between the two.

 

Manchester City EFL Cup form: WWWW

Manchester City form (all competitions): WWLWLW

Tottenham Hotspur EFL Cup form: WWW

Tottenham Hotspur form (all competitions): LWDLDW

 

Team News

 

Both sides are sweating over the fitness of key players ahead of Sunday's final, with Manchester City hoping for positive news on Kevin De Bruyne and Tottenham waiting on Harry Kane.

 

De Bruyne limped off in last weekend's FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea but is now back in training, with his twisted ankle proving less serious than first feared.

 

The Belgian should be fit to feature if needed, while Sergio Aguero could also be in contention having returned to training this week too - although the Argentine's injury problems throughout the season mean that he is likely to have to make do with a place on the bench at best.

 

Guardiola admitted in his pre-match press conference that he will have one eye on "more important" games in the Champions League and Premier League, suggesting that he could make a number of changes for this match.

 

John Stones will definitely miss out through suspension following his red card against Aston Villa last time out, while Zack Steffen will feature in goal instead of Ederson.

 

Raheem Sterling appears to have fallen out of favour in the biggest games, but Guardiola's suggestion that he will prioritise the upcoming Champions League semi-final means that the winger could get a start here.

 

The likes of Joao Cancelo, Aymeric Laporte, Fernandinho and Benjamin Mendy will also be pushing for starting roles after missing out in midweek.

 

Tottenham are much more likely to name their strongest possible XI, although whether or not that will include Kane is a situation Mason is tracking "hour by hour".

 

The England skipper is not yet back in training after picking up an ankle injury against Everton, though, and Mason has insisted that he will not risk Kane's fitness for the sake of one game, even if it is a final.

 

Mason opted for Lucas Moura to lead the line in Kane's absence in midweek, and that could again be the choice this weekend, with Son and Bale - the latter of whom has directly contributed to 11 goals in his last 11 starts for Spurs - in support.

 

Mourinho's departure could be welcome news for the likes of Harry Winks and Dele Alli, although their lack of game time this season could prevent them from being thrown straight into the mix from the start on Sunday.

 

Alongside Kane, Matt Doherty is Tottenham's only other injury doubt, while Ben Davies is definitely sidelined.

 

Manchester City possible starting lineup:

Steffen; Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Mendy; Silva, Fernandinho, Gundogan; Mahrez, Torres, Sterling

 

Tottenham Hotspur possible starting lineup:

Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Dier, Reguilon; Ndombele, Hojbjerg; Bale, Lo Celso, Son; Lucas

 

Head To Head

 

Man City have only won one of the last four meetings between these two sides, although that did come in the most recent one as Ilkay Gundogan scored twice in a 3-0 Premier League triumph at the Etihad Stadium in February.

 

This will be the first meeting between the two sides in a major final since the 1981 FA Cup final, which Spurs eventually won via a replay in a match made famous by Ricky Villa's timelessly stunning solo effort.

 

It will only be the fourth ever meeting in the League Cup, and Spurs boast a 100% record from the previous three, most recently winning 2-0 in the fifth round en route to lifting the trophy in 2007-08.

 

Manchester City 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur

 

Manchester City VS Tottenham Hotspur, EFL Cup final at Wembley