Manchester City will take on Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup Final at the Wembley Stadium on Sunday as Pep Guardiola’s team seek to win the title for the third consecutive time.
City, who were recently dealt a blow in the form of a two-season European ban and who trail Premier League leaders Liverpool by 22 points, had cause to celebrate in the week as they beat 10-man Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the first leg of the sides’ Champions League last-16 first tie.
Meanwhile, Villa fell into the relegation zone on Saturday with a game in hand, but their Carabao Cup venture has been a successful one this season. They will certainly be the underdogs on Sunday, though, and will be desperate to avoid a repeat of their 6-1 January thumping by City.
City have a squad that’s nearly at full health. That said, the one player they’re certain to be without on Sunday is Aymeric Laporte, whose absence earlier this term almost single-handedly derailed City’s season. The Frenchman suffered a hamstring injury against Real Madrid and was substituted 33 minutes in.
Meanwhile, Leroy Sane played for the club’s U23s this week as he nears a return from injury, but the Germany international is unlikely to feature for the first team on Sunday.
Villa will be without long-term absentees Wesley and goalkeeper Tom Heaton, while key man John McGinn is still a few weeks away from a return to the team’s midfield.
Speaking ahead of the game, Aston Villa manager Dean Smith is embracing his side being underdogs.
“We’re massive underdogs against a world-class team,” Smith said.
“But I can only name one or two other teams who wouldn’t be underdogs going into the game against City.
“They’re a fantastic team, no matter which 11 they put out, and they have a fantastic coach which is why they can go to Bernabeu and get a result.
“But I like sometimes being the underdog because we can go and have a good fight without people expecting anything of us.”
Also speaking, City manager Pep Guardiola insists his side will take nothing for granted when they meet Villa this afternoon.
“You can never think you are going to win,” Guardiola said. “That’s a lack of respect for our opponent.
“Our mentally tough game was against Madrid in the week, so we know we are going to suffer with that for the next few days, which is normal.
“You have to prepare for weeks for games like that, so there is a drop of adrenaline afterwards but now we’ll start to prepare for the final to try to win it.
“Villa are organised, they have a keeper with incredible experience in Pepe Reina, talent and fast players up front, physicality in midfield, good headers as centre-defenders.”
Man City: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Mendy; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan; Sterling, Jesus, Mahrez
Aston Villa: Reina; Guilbert, Konsa, Mings, Hause, Targett; Douglas Luiz, Nakamba; Grealish, El Ghazi, Samatta