Manchester City completed their stroll to the Carabao Cup Final with a 1-0 victory over Burton Albion which brought the aggregate score into double figures.
Sergio Aguero netted the winner after 26 minutes as Guardiola “blooded” several of his young guns. Clubs are duty bound to field a handful of regular first-teamers, so alongside Aguero was De Bruyne, Mahrez, Zinchenko, Delph and Danilo. Muric and Foden have been hovering around the first team all season, but for Sandler, Poveda and the accomplished Eric Garcia, it was a night of valuable experience.
The Blues eased their way around in much less than top gear and although they had enough chances to take a record 12-0 aggregate win, tonight was not about driving even more humiliation on Nigel Clough’s side in front of a packed Pirelli Stadium.
Indeed, Burton might have had a couple of goals themselves but for saves from Muric and an off-the-line clearance. The result of the home leg put this tie to bed, so this was about giving more game time to De Bruyne and Aguero, still in the returning from injury process. There appeared to be no additional traumas for those two as both were replaced on the hour to afford more game time for de Jesus and a welcome half-hour for Benjamin Mendy, himself a returnee from injury.
So, City march on to yet another Cup Final amid Pep’s philosophy that his team needs to fight to win everything. February 24 is the date when City will seek to retain a trophy for the first time against either Tottenham Hotspur or Chelsea.
This, of course, will add to City’s fixture pile-up pushing the Everton away match further towards the end of the season and moving the West Ham home match probably to the Wednesday instead of Tuesday.
Something else that seems to have fallen below the radar is that in their infinite wisdom, the FA scheduled the away “derby” at Sold Trafford for the same day as the FA Cup Quarter Finals. It is almost a no-brainer that one team, the other or both would be still in the competition at that stage, so this looks like another tool used by Scudamore to ensure that the Premier League title exits the Etihad come May.
When you examine the way fixtures were delivered this season, there are many situations that seem to have the hallmark of Scudamore and his edict. When United, Liverpen and Spurs had relatively easy home matches over Christmas, City had to travel to Leicester and Southampton. When the Blues finally got a home match it was against Liverpool!
Now, City had to play last night and over the weekend in the various cups and Liverpen get ten days in bed. We then get Arsenal and Chelsea back-to-back, although, for once, the Scousers will be playing catch-up next week and weekend.
But to have to fit in a match away to United in the last 2 weeks of the season, similar to when we won the league in 2012, is a tall order especially as we have to host Spurs around that time too.