From the bog formerly known as Wembley, it was back to the lush green billiard table of a football pitch last night for City. Fulham, selecting more or less their full first choice eleven were the latest lambs to come to the Etihad slaughterhouse and although Pep Guardiola made ten changes to his starting line-up, once again Manchester City proved to be way too good for opponents from the nation’s capital.
The much-maligned Carabao Cup may well be low on the list of many Premier League teams not, it seems, City, winners of three out of the last five EFL Cup Finals.
Guardiola introduced Muric in goal, Zinchenko on the left, Brahim Diaz and Phil Foden in midfield. If you add to that the relative youth of de Jesus and Sane, this was indeed a very young starting eleven nothwithstanding the inclusion of Kompany and Danilo.
Kevin de Bruyne, returning from injury was also included and it was evident from minute one that Kevin was back as he had a shot on target in the first minute and then tormented Fulham all night with his array of passing. Add to the defensive duties that normally fall to the absent Fernandinho, you can see why KDB is such a special player.
Brahim Diaz it was who stole the limelight with a tidy performance and two well-taken goals, one in each half, to send City into a quarter-final tie against either Southampton, weekend visitors to the Etihad or Leicester, still in mourning for the sad loss of the Chairman in a helicopter crash in the environs of the King Power Stadium this week. Out of respect, there was a tribute to the great man and the players wore black armbands.
But City did not show Fulham any sympathy at all as they systematically set about a side in danger of losing their manager and never looked at the races.
The young players all looked hungry and served their club well. Diaz must have returned to the radar with his two goals and Foden looks a shoo-in at some point in the near future. With the “old-stagers” De Bruyne and Delph also there in midfield it was a long night for the Londoner who only had two shots all evening. City must certainly do their best to ensure that Diaz stays in the fold and not allowed to slip away to foreign soils in search of a game. Jadon Sancho is showing what happens if you let them off the hook.
We must also mention Gabriel de Jesus. Nothing much is going right for this young man right now but his all-round football last night was simply excellent. Especially when he carved open the Fulham back line like a Christmas turkey to fire home. However, the ball rebounded off the far post and ran to Diaz who had time to steady and then fire it into the back of the net.
It’s back to the Premier League on Sunday against Southampton, tricky customers twice last season in a weekend that could see the top of the league open up a bit. The only downside is that KDB sustained another knee injury at the hands of ex-Stretford Timothy Fosu-Mensah and could now miss the Derby against the Derby Donkeys.