Defending champions Manchester City arrive at Wembley looking to secure their fourth successive Carabao Cup trophy by beating Tottenham Hotspur, who have been commonly derided for their lack of trophies in recent years and are now just one win away from their first major honour since winning this competition back in 2008.
Spurs head to Wembley under the command of interim manager Ryan Mason following the sacking of Jose Mourinho and Mason’s first game in charge saw his side beat Southampton 2-1 on Wednesday night.
What will probably be his biggest match of his short interim manager role, he comes up against serial trophy winner Pep Guardiola, although the Manchester City boss without influential midfielder and key man Kevin De Bruyne. Tottenham could well also be without a key figure in Harry Kane as he faces a race against a time to be fit for Sunday’s showdown.
Still, there will be some intriguing and exciting talents on show as we pick out five key battles that could prove pivotal in deciding who takes home the Carabao Cup trophy:
Harry Kane v Ruben Dias
The best striker in the country up against arguably the best central defender in the county, in what he’s first campaign in the English top-flight. Ruben Dias has enjoyed a remarkable breakthrough season under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola.
The Portuguese captain has proven a vital component in City’s defence, vastly improving the performances, the defensive nous and abilities of those around him especially John Stones.
Dias has got to be a sure bet for player of the year come the end of the season, and will be vitally key to City’s hopes of claiming a fourth successive Carabao Cup triumph by trying to stop the best striker in the country in Harry Kane, that’s if Tottenham’s talisman is fit to start the game.Embed from Getty Images
Tottenham’s feint hopes of lifting this trophy rests on his shoulders.
Pierre Emile Hojbjerg v Phil Foden
Tottenham’s key men may well be Harry Kane and Hueng-Min Son, but midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has enjoyed a stellar campaign in Tottenham’s midfield despite their struggles under Mourinho this campaign. Recording the most tackles won in the division and a player who can be relied upon to set the tone and standard for his teammates to follow.
However, the Danish international could have his work cut out when he comes up against one of England’s most promising players right now in Phil Foden. The 20-year-old scored his 14th goal of the season against Aston Villa in midweek, and you wouldn’t bet against him overcoming the difficult challenge of coming up against one of the Premier League’s most destructive midfielders.
Phil Foden has arguably come up against tougher challenges than Hojbjerg, and reigned supreme. Can he do it again come Sunday?
Son Hueng-Min v Kyle Walker
This will be a tough stone-cold battle between two established players and former teammates. Son Hueng-Min will be hoping he can finally lift his first trophy in a Tottenham shirt against Manchester City, and also stop them coveting a trophy once again. He did just that in Tottenham’s route to the Champions League final in 2019, scoring twice at the Etihad in a thrilling encounter where Tottenham came out triumphant on away goals to set up a semi-final date with Ajax, despite losing on the night 4-3.
Hueng-Min Son came out on top that night. England international Kyle Walker will be hoping he ends up on the winning side once again come Sunday.
Riyad Mahrez v Sergio Reguilon
There’s no doubt about it, Riyad Mahrez is one of the Premier League’s most successful foreign imports ever to grace the division, and if City win this final, it would be the Algerian’s seventh major honour in English football. A terrific and tricky footballer who will feel he can aid City’s trophy chase in the absence of key man Kevin De Bruyne.
He’ll be up against Spanish left-back Sergio Reguillon who’s gone through a somewhat mixed season in North London, but has shown that he has what it takes to play at the top level especially joining from Real Madrid last summer.
Reguillon has shown why Mourinho poured everything to sign him, but not on a consistent basis. However, a tremendous showing against Southampton in midweek will do his confidence the world of good heading into Sunday’s finale.
Tanguy Ndombele v Rodri
Arguably Tottenham’s most improved player this campaign. After enduring a difficult spell when Mourinho first stepped through the door at the club, its safe to say that Ndombele is a much better player despite the Portuguese being forced to walk out again.
If Tottenham are to achieve their aim of ending their long trophy haul against City, they’ll need to put in their most complete performance of the season and Ndombele will play a vital role in that. The Frenchman has the talent in his locker, but can he now translate that on a more consistent basis, when his club need it most?Embed from Getty Images
Ndombele will come up against another improved performer in Rodri, who has taken his defensive game to another level under Guardiola this season.
There’s a reason why City hold the best defence in the country, and that’s down to the stark improvements and levels of maturity in the Spaniard’s game, becoming an assured and commanding presence in front of City’s back-line. He’s also become a much more confident and well-rounded component in possession of the ball, arguably living up to his billing, as the next in line to Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets.
May the best midfielder win.
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