Alex Livesey – Danehouse/Getty Images
Manchester City are major favourites to beat Chelsea in the 2019 Carabao Cup final on Sunday, which would make them the first team in almost 10 years to successfully defend the title.
Rivals Manchester United were the last team to win back-to-back League Cups in 2009 and 2010, but Pep Guardiola’s side return in what could be the first of two finals at Wembley Stadium for them this term.
The Citizens have already won at Wembley this season, emerging as slim 1-0 victors when they faced Tottenham Hotspur there in the Premier League in October. Chelsea, on the other hand, have suffered two defeats away to Spurs this campaign, including a 1-0 loss at Wembley in the semi-finals of this competition.
Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea lost 6-0 in their visit to City at the Etihad Stadium earlier in February. It was a Premier League-record defeat for the club and a performance they’ll look to put out of their minds come Sunday.
The first major trophy of the season is up for grabs as Chelsea seek to reclaim a crown they last won in 2015, but the incumbent champions are out to secure a fourth League Cup final win in six years.
Date: Sunday, February 24
Time: 4:30 p.m. GMT/11:30 am. ET
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London
TV Info: Sky Sports (UK) ESPN (U.S.)
Manchester City: 4-7
Back-to-back losses against City and United will have left Sarri sick of seeing Manchester’s top two clubs, but the Italian can look at Sunday’s final as a chance to set the record straight.
After all, there’s plenty for Chelsea to be upbeat about despite sitting sixth in the Premier League.
The west Londoners are through to the UEFA Europa League round of 16 after beating Malmo 5-1 on aggregate, and Sky Sports hailed Sarri’s start at Stamford Bridge as even better than Guardiola’s at the Etihad in some regards:
Sky Sports Premier League @SkySportsPL
Maurizio Sarri has a better record in his first season at Chelsea than Pep Guardiola did at Man City.
Is he harshly treated?
Watch #TheDebate now on Sky Sports PL and tweet your questions below. https://t.co/Y9AgkycLwf
Chelsea beat Malmo 3-0 on Thursday, and Sarri rested the vast majority of his first-string stars following the disappointment of Monday’s FA Cup exit at the hands of Manchester United.
However, the Blues were far from their best against the Swedish minnows and didn’t score the opening goal until the 55th minute.
Callum Hudson-Odoi started and scored Chelsea’s third in Thursday’s win, but journalist Matt Law asked whether it would be enough to convince Sarri he should start:
Matt Law @Matt_Law_DT
Important that Chelsea are through, but that was not enough to change opinions on Sarri from those who want him out. Too much of it was pretty unconvincing. Hudson-Odoi was the big plus, but will he play v City?
Gonzalo Higuain has scored twice in five appearances for Chelsea since arriving on loan from Juventus in January, both of which came in a 5-0 win over Huddersfield Town. A little more than a month after arriving at Stamford Bridge, the 31-year-old could push Chelsea to a surprise piece of silverware.
Gary Cahill is Chelsea’s only first-team injury concern, but the fourth-choice option at centre-back isn’t likely to affect Sarri’s plans as David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger have been first-choice picks in central defence this season.
City were even shakier in their visit to Schalke on Wednesday. Nicolas Otamendi’s red card saw Guardiola’s side reduced to 10 men, but they scored twice in the dying minutes to win 3-2 in the opening leg of their UEFA Champions League round-of-16 affair.
Gabriel Jesus, Benjamin Mendy and John Stones missed that trip due to injuries, per Goal’s Dom Farrell, with each of the three stars fighting to have some contribution at Wembley on Sunday.
Sergio Aguero has scored 24 goals in 31 games in all competitions this season and will be one player to keep an eye on, per Goal:
Sergio Aguero in 2019:
The leading scorer in Europe’s top five leagues this year! 👏 https://t.co/2IkwGCKabZ
The Argentinian netted in last year’s 3-0 win over Arsenal to help City lift their most recent League Cup trophy, and Guardiola will be relying all the more on his frontman in the event Jesus isn’t fit to return.
The video assistant referee (VAR) was used to award Schalke two penalties in their clash at the Veltins-Arena, and the technology will be available during Sunday’s final.
Late strikes from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling might have improved his disposition, but Guardiola supported the use of the VAR immediately after the win at Schalke, via Omnisport:
“VAR needs time, like a new manager!”
Pep Guardiola has urged people not to expect too much from the technology so soon after it’s introduction.
#ManCity conceded two penalties in a 3-2 win over #Schalke following VAR reviews.
#UCL #MCFC #S04 https://t.co/uGlC6OqL1X
City have won five League Cups in their history and are tied alongside Chelsea, rivals United and Aston Villa as the second-most successful team in the competition. Liverpool are the most successful club in the League Cup with eight titles.
Sunday’s victor will clinch a sixth crown and move clear of their competition outright to close that gap on the Reds, with City highly favoured by the bookmakers to win back-to-back League Cup finals.