It’s all shaping up for a Man City v Man United Cup Final
Sunderland and West Ham may have plenty to say on the matter, but the odds are very much in favour of a Manchester derby in the Capital One Cup Final on March 2nd with the two strong favourites kept apart in last night’s draw.
It’s 10/11 City and 11/8 United with Coral and that’s the game most neutrals would like to see, although there is also a significant number who would be happy to see both big beasts fall flat on their faces and will be shouting for the underdogs.
The week could hardly have worked out better for Manuel Pellegrini and David Moyes. While their teams were avoiding potential banana skins with relative ease, main tournament rivals Chelsea and Spurs slipped up big-time, leaving the way clear for Manchester dominance.
This stage of the season’s least important competition is always delicate for managers of the big clubs as they wonder just how seriously to take it – like keeping the girl next door sweet in case the one you really fancy turns you down.
So Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho made eight changes each – it worked for City but not for Chelsea. It was different with Spurs with interim boss Tim Sherwood wanting to stamp his mark on team selection.
But Moyes, perhaps realising that the competition he really fancies – the Premier League – is already committed to another, signalled just how seriously he is taking the Capital One Cup by making only three changes at Stoke and he may not have made as many as that if Wayne Rooney not picked up an injury.
If City do meet United in the final, I am sure Pellegrini will field his strongest side available, but in the meantime they could be vulnerable if not giving West Ham (12/1) total respect in the semi-final, although being a two-legged affair does make a shock less likely.
West Ham, like Sunderland, have more important things to think about down at the bottom of the Premier League, but teams in that predicament often raise it a notch when the pressure is off in the Cup (think Wigan, who beat City in last season’s FA Cup Final).
Sunderland (10/1) have made some progress in terms of performances, if not results yet, under Gus Poyet and will be looking forward to their two ties against United, especially old boys John O’Shea, Phil Bardsley and veteran Wes Brown, who has returned from his lengthy spell on the sidelines playing some of the best football of his career.