Manchester City are EFL Cup Champions!

Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City (aet, 3-4 on penalties)

Manchester City won the EFL Cup with a penalty shootout, after a 120-minute stalemate against a battling Chelsea. But that isn’t the half of it!

After Chelsea performed brilliantly to hold the reigning champions for two hours,

coach Maurizio Sarri prepared to bring on penalty specialist keeper Willy Cabellero. But as Cabellero stripped off, Arrizabalaga refused to leave the field.

It looked like the coach was leaving the stadium but he reappeared to watch his team lose the shootout after the incredible show of disrespect from his keeper.

Well, us football fans, have you ever seen anything like that before? I haven’t.

Poor Sarri was humiliated but for Manchester City, it was the first trophy of the season and the quadruple is still on…just. Thanks to Arrizabalaga.

The EFL Cup betting odds had Pep Guardiola’s side as clear favourites at odds of 1.55 to see the Blues off in 90 minutes. But before the bizarre finale, Sarris’ team regained a lot of pride.

EFL Cup: Maurizio Sarri's Chelsea lose 3-4 on penalties

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri reacts after Kepa refused to be subbed off

Highlights of the game

Manchester City’s destruction of the Blues in last week’s Premier League game was humiliating for Chelsea, and Sarri’s team started the game intended to make an impression, which Jorginho did on Sergio Aguero with a first-minute marker; but nothing came of the free-kick.

The tackles continued to fly in as Sarri’s midfield five kept chances down to a minimum in the early stages, clearly mindful of their Etihad stuffing. The City fans tried to lift their team, buoyed by the news that title rivals Liverpool had earlier played out a 0-0 draw with Manchester United but Chelsea were determined not to get pushed around by the City slickers.

As the half time break neared Pep Guardiola’s team tried to turn the screw but the Chelsea defence dealt with every ball flying into their box. And the closest we came to a goal was when Nicolas Otamendi almost diverted the ball into his own net from a Chelsea cross.

0-0 at the break.

Ten minutes into the second half Sergio Aguero fired into the Chelsea net but was marginally offside. Chelsea fans had a nervy minute while VAR pondered but the decision stayed with them. Take a look at the EFL Cup highlights…it was a mighty close call.

Then Chelsea had a golden chance to open the scoring on 65 minutes. Eden Hazard made a run in behind Vincent Kompany and crossed for N’Golo Kante who blazed over with the goal at his mercy. Hazard was the heartbeat of Chelsea’s forward play and looked the man most likely to deliver something.

EFL Cup: Eden Hazard and the rest of Chelsea lose against Manchester City

Eden Hazard with the ball against Manchester City defenders during the EFL Cup Final

Both sets of fans roared their teams on in search of a winner and Chelsea finished the 90 minutes the better, Ederson tipping over a Willian cross deep into injury time.

It was a surprise to many that new signing Gonzalo Higuain was left on the bench by Sarri having been trumpeted as the man to re-ignite the Blues’ season. And the London fans approved when he came off the bench five minutes into extra-time.

The Sky Blues came so close to grabbing the winner when Raheem Sterling pulled the ball back for Aguero but he couldn’t quite get his shot away and Chelsea scrambled clear. Then, with penalties looming Rudiger slipped to let Aguero in but Arrizabalaga saved.

And then came the biggest drama of all after the shocking refusal of the Chelsea keeper to be substituted.

After Ederson saved Jorginho’s opening penalty Arrizabalaga tried to unsettle Aguero but failed to save his penalty when maybe he should have. Then he did save from Leroy Sane to level.

At 2-2 David Luiz hit the post and Bernardo Silva beat the Chelsea keeper with a cool penalty down the middle.

Eden Hazard chipped a cool one to level but then Raheem Sterling hammered his penalty high into the top left corner.

Key Statistics

Manchester City has now won six games on the trot while Chelsea has four defeats in seven.

But the big news is that’s 21 trophies for Pep and the first time City has won this trophy back-to-back.

What’s next?

Chelsea stays in London for the foreseeable future with Premier League games at home to Spurs and then away to Fulham but who knows what’s next for their head coach and their goalkeeper? I’d stay away from Sarri if I was the keeper!

With one trophy in the bag, Pep Guardiola takes his team back to Manchester for a home league fixture against West Ham. And looking further ahead Manchester City are in good shape in the Champions League Round of 16 with a first leg lead of FC Schalke.

It’s looking good for the Sky Blues and stormy for the Blues.

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Silva seeks more silverware

Manchester City midfielder David Silva says he is keen to win an eighth trophy with the club by lifting the Carabao Cup on Sunday.

The 33-year-old Spaniard has helped City win three Premier League titles since he arrived at the club from Valencia in the summer of 2010, as well as three League Cups and one FA Cup.

City face Chelsea at Wembley, a team they thrashed 6-0 in the league earlier this month.

However, Silva is anticipating a tight game this weekend against Maurizio Sarri's team, who reached the last-16 of the Europa League by knocking Malmo out on Thursday.

Silva said: "It's another chance to win a title and it's always beautiful to play a final at Wembley. Hopefully, we can win it.

"A final is always difficult, whether you play Chelsea or any other team. It will be tough. They have a lot of quality players up front, so we should take care."

Silva has made 33 appearances for Pep Guardiola's team this season but insists he is still feeling fresh.

He added: "I feel good, to be honest. I know every day it gets tougher because there's a lot of games and a high level.

"But I feel fine. I have to take more care, but that's what I'm doing and I'm feeling good."

City are 2/7 to lift the trophy on Sunday with Silva available at 11/4 to score at any time against Chelsea. Meanwhile, Guardiola's team can be backed at 4/6 to win the Premier League again this season.

EFL Cup: City to Give Sarri the Blues

Manchester City vs Chelsea

The first silverware of the English football season is up for grabs on Sunday when Manchester City and Chelsea meet in the final of the EFL Cup.

It’s the kind of game we love in the us football team: two of the Premier League giants clashing in front of a packed Wembley Stadium with one of them picking up a trophy to set a powerful marker for the remainder of the season.

For Manchester City, it’s one to tick off in their latest quest to achieve an incredible quadruple; for Chelsea, it might just be a reprieve for their beleaguered coach, Maurizio Sarri.

Talking Points

Is it too early to talk of Quadruple?

This could be the first part of the Sky Blues’ bid to pick up a domestic treble and add it to Champions League glory. Is it too early to speak of that; after all, we’re still only in February? Well, Pep Guardiola’s side is the favourite to win each individual competition. Liverpool have the task of holding them off in the Premier League, while their main threat to FA Cup glory, Manchester United, had a stinker of a tie away to dangerous Wolves.

Manchester City’s Leroy Sane will be a huge threat for Chelsea as they clash in EFL Cup final

Leroy Sane controls the ball during their match against Schalke

Leroy Sane scored a beautiful free-kick to level the scores as the Sky Blues came from behind, with ten men, to beat FC Schalke in the first leg of their Champions League clash. It was City at their best, coming back to win at the death, recovering from two controversial penalties and a harsh red card for Nicolas Otamendi. There was a calm assuredness about the team, unfazed by the prospect of taking a deficit back to the Etihad, but focussed to the end.

That win puts them in complete control of the tie against a side struggling in the Bundesliga.

It all looks a little ominous for Chelsea. Manchester City are blessed with such attacking talent in Sane, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus that the next goal is always just around the corner. Jesus has five EFL Cup goals already and, with such strength in depth, the final EFL Cup 2019 highlights are certain to feature the contest between City’s attack and the Blues’ defence.

And with the creative genius of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, the pressure on Chelsea will be relentless at times.

Sarri on the brink

Part of the job description as Chelsea coach is to have your bags packed and ready in anticipation of a speedy journey towards the exit door when things go wrong. The owner isn’t noted for his powers of patience, and Maurizio Sarri is under huge pressure. The former Napoli boss took 18 months to get things right in Serie A but he knows full well that winning football games, and quickly, is the only way of lengthening his stay at Stamford Bridge.

The Chelsea boss hasn’t held back on criticising his team, but he’s become more introspective recently, admitting: “I am not able to get out of my players a very high level of aggression and determination.”

So how can the Blues beat the league champions? Well, they only have to win one game, and Schalke came within a whisker of succeeding in that daunting task. In fact, Newcastle United stunned City less than a month ago.

The obvious point is that they need to thwart City’s talented attack, and both Jorginho and N’Golo Kante must give their defence a first line of protection while finding their own front men. The Blues can’t afford to rely solely on the superb Eden Hazard, and this could be the perfect stage for new signing Gonzalo Higuain to make his mark.

History

Chelsea fans need to look away when we talk about the most recent history between Manchester City and Chelsea when Pep’s boys humiliated the Blues with a 6-0 thrashing just ten days ago. City were as scintillating as Chelsea were appalling.

The Blues have won 27 of the 49 games between these two clubs, since 1993, with seven drawn, but City have won four of the last five meetings. Each game was won without conceding.

The Sky Blues come in with five wins on the bounce, while Chelsea have three defeats in six. While Sarri may struggle to lift his players, Pep’s job is to keep his team focused after a superb Euro night.

Betting Tip

??
Manchester City vs Chelsea Over 2.5 goals @ 1.80
February 25, 12:30 (GMT+8)

The EFL Cup 2019 betting markets have nailed their colours to the mast and they are distinctly Sky Blue, with Manchester City at 1.55 to win, Chelsea at 5.40 and 4.00 the draw.

But I think the value is in a high-scoring game. I can’t see Chelsea holding out under intense pressure, but then I can see Hazard or Higuain grabbing a goal.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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City hit Chelsea for six

Manchester City moved back to the top of the Premier League table in emphatic fashion, beating Chelsea 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

City were 4-0 up before half an hour, exposing the visitors defensive frailties to move back above Liverpool on goal difference.

Chelsea began the game by attempting to press high up the pitch but their tactics were undermined within the first five minutes, City taking the lead.

It was the recalled Kevin De Bruyne who began the move with a quick free kick which found Bernardo Silva and, with the Chelsea defence failing to react, crossed for Raheem Sterling to pounce and turn the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Sergio Aguero should have scored shortly afterwards but, after being set up by Silva, shot wide with the goal gaping.

However, Aguero and City weren't denied for long and he doubled City's lead on 13 minutes, Oleksandr Zinchenko losing possession but the ball fell to the Argentine who shot into the top corner from about 25 yards out.

All Chelsea's plans were in tatters and City continued to pour forward to test a stretched defence and were rewarded on 19 minutes, Aguero getting a rather more scruffy goal but again Chelsea failed to clear the ball from their own area.

With less than half an hour of the game gone it was 4-0 when Ilkay Gundogan took advantage of a poor clearance from Antonio Rudiger and shot home.

City made it five about 10 minutes into the second half, Aguero completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot. Cesar Azpilicueta was ruled to have brought Sterling down in the area and the striker made no mistake from the spot to compound Chelsea's misery.

City have a heavy fixture list in coming weeks, taking on Newport in the FA Cup, Schalke in the Champions League and Chelsea again in the EFL Cup final and Pep Guardiola made changes with those games in mind.

The game already won he took off Aguero and De Bruyne, replaced by Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez.

It looked as if City were winding down but Guardiola recently suggested the Premier League title race could come down to goal difference and City scored another before the end to be nine goals ahead of Liverpool, Sterling getting on the end of another excellent moving involving David Silva and Zinchenko.

That completed the scoring and City, having played a game more than Liverpool, are back above them at the top of the Premier League.

City are 8/11 to win the Premier League with Liverpool 6/5.

City are 13/8 to reach the final of the Champions League this season with Liverpool 4/1 and Manchester United 14/1.

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Guardiola insists on fighting spirit

Pep Guardiola says that his Manchester City squad are all instilled with a fighting spirit pushing them on in all competitions.

City are still in four competitions this season. They are in the final of the EFL Cup, are in the fourth round of the FA Cup this weekend and are in a good position in both the Premier League and the Champions League.

City host Burnley in the FA Cup on Saturday and Guardiola dismissed the opportunity to use the game to blood some youngsters, insisting he would choose a strong team.

He said that whoever was in the line-up to face Burnley, they would have the necessary spirit ingrained in the squad.

At a press conference ahead of the game the City boss said: "When the players are fit, they compete with each other, they want to win and they want to play, you can always run and fight and be in every game as well as possible.

"Today, in the big leagues, if you lose points you are not going to win the Premier League, the FA Cup, the big competitions. You have to win every day if you want a chance to the end to win titles."

Guardiola revealed that, with the exception of Vincent Kompany, he has a full squad to choose from and unlike the midweek win at Burton in the EFL Cup, he will not bring in players from the club's academy for the clash with Sean Dyche's side.

Manchester City are 1/14 to win through to the fifth round of the cup on Saturday while Burnley are 40/1 with the draw 14/1.

City then return to Premier League action on Tuesday night, taking on Newcastle United away from home. With Liverpool not playing until Wednesday night City will, with victory at St James' Park, reduce the gap at the top of the table to one point.

City are 6/5 to win the Premier League title for a second successive year while Liverpool are 4/6.

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Pochettino hoping for squad boost

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino says that he is working hard to try and add to the squad ahead of next week's transfer deadline.

The January window shuts on Thursday night and Pochettino, who didn't buy any players in the summer, has been biding his time this month too.

However injuries are forcing his hand with key men Harry Kane and Dele Alli facing spells on the sidelines.

Ben Davies was another player injured, hobbling off during Spurs' EFL Cup semi-final at Chelsea on Thursday.

They lost that tie on penalties but are still in the FA Cup and travel to Crystal Palace for a London derby in the fourth round on Sunday.

At a press conference ahead of that game Pochettino admitted that he was now keen to add to the squad before Thursday's deadline, though only if they were quality additions.

He said: "We are working on a few options. We will see if we are able to deliver.

"I always say I am more than open to add players to the squad. That is so clear. A different thing is if we can find the right player that is going to help us improve."

Spurs are 17/10 to win at Selhurst Park on Sunday with Palace 7/4 while the draw and a replay back at Wembley is 12/5.

Pochettino admitted that the squad were tired back in training just a few hours after going out of the EFL Cup but stressed it was important they recover quickly for the challenges ahead.

"For sure we are going to be in a good position to compete on Sunday," he added.

"The competition doesn't stop. You need to be ready. Of course, one thing is to be sad, one thing is to feel disappointed, but you cannot stop to think, you need to be ready to compete in the next game."

Spurs are 8/1 to win the FA Cup this season while Palace are 40/1.

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EFL Cup: Chelsea Spot-On Against Luckless Spurs

Chelsea 1-1 (2-1 on pens) Tottenham Hotspur

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri had asked for a reaction – and my word he got it!

They will return to Wembley on February 24 to face Manchester City in the final of the EFL Cup. It will be the first time the clubs have met in a showpiece final.

For luckless Spurs, who led 1-0 on the aggregate travelling to Stamford Bridge, this was arguably one game too many in a hectic spell for a now threadbare squad.

Shorn of the likes of Harry Kane – who scored the first leg winner – Dele Alli through injury, and not to mention Son Heung-Min on duty at the Asian Cup, it was the night their recent pile-up of absentees took its toll.

Highlights of the game

I had promised us fans fireworks before the match and the opening exchanges briefly threatened to provide them.

The ring-rusty Eric Dier was late on David Luiz, then committed two other niggly fouls but referee Martin Atkinson didn’t deem the accumulation worthy of a booking which might have caused Chelsea some frustration.

That is, had they not scored with their first effort on target in the 27th minute.

A corner was worked to N’Golo Kante and, from 20 yards, the French dynamo rifled a shot which went through two players’ legs and then flicked off Moussa Sissoko before going through another set of legs, this time belonging to the perhaps unsighted goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.

Spurs’ injury list grew even longer a short time later when Ben Davies had to be taken off with a groin injury, to be replaced by Danny Rose.

The Spurs may have been forgiven for thinking it wasn’t their night when Chelsea scored again with their second shot on target seven minutes before the break.

Ross Barkley released Eden Hazard who found Cesar Azpilicueta and the Spanish full-back returned the compliment to pick out Hazard, back in his usual influential position off the frontman, who placed the ball expertly beyond Gazzaniga.

The EFL Cup 2019 betting odds were strongly in favour of the hosts at the break – Chelsea hadn’t lost consecutive home games against Spurs in all competitions since March 1982, while Spurs themselves were looking to win four games in a row against the west Londoners for the first time since a run of five from 1961-63.

Chelsea are not the only side who can score from their first effort on target and, five minutes after the restart, it was game on and there were more EFL Cup 2019 news headlines to be made.

Kane’s deputy, Fernando Llorente – who chose to join Spurs at the expense of Chelsea a year and a half ago – nipped in between his markers and headed Rose’s pinpoint cross down and past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

With the tie all square and no away goals nor extra-time in play in the competition this season, both sides went for the jugular.

Hazard screwed the ball just wide of the post, Llorente did the same after a peach of a pass from Christian Eriksen, Hazard went close again. Substitute Lucas Moura, on for the tiring Llorente, found the side netting and the ever-threatening Hazard hit the outside of the post from distance.

The derby was in the balance and a place in a Wembley final at stake.

When Olivier Giroud headed wide in stoppage time, Sarri held his head in his hands and the tie was to be decided by the lottery of penalties.

Injury-riddled Spurs failed to advance to the EFL Cup finals after falling to Chelsea via penalities

Tottenham Hotspur players stand on the pitch during the penalty shootout of their 2nd leg clash against Chelsea

Spurs’ luck was out and Chelsea were through to their 15th cup final in 16 years.

Key statistics

In all competitions, Chelsea have lost none of the previous 46 games in which Hazard has scored in at Stamford Bridge.

Since the start of last season, Hazard has been directly involved in seven goals in his eight League Cup appearances (four goals, three assists).

Llorente has scored eight goals in his last five starts for Tottenham in all competitions.

This is only the second time in six occasions that Chelsea have reached the final after losing the first leg of a League Cup semi-final tie.

Spurs have lost their last three cup semi-finals.

What’s next?

Cup combat remains for both sides this weekend.

Spurs have another tough one as they travel to neighbours Crystal Palace, while Chelsea host Championship side Sheffield Wednesday. Both those ties are in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

It’s then back to league action for both next midweek.

Chelsea travel to the south coast to face Bournemouth, while Spurs host Watford.

 

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Poch cool on transfer plans

The difficult nature of the transfer market is again limiting Tottenham's options according to Mauricio Pochettino.

Last summer saw Spurs become the first club to fail to sign a single player since the window was introduced and they have again been quiet this month.

With Harry Kane and Dele Alli expected to be out for three months through and Son Heung-min away at the Asian Cup with South Korea, Pochettino appears to have his hands tied going into Thursday's EFL Cup clash with Chelsea, a game they are 5/1 to win, with the draw 31/10 and the Blues 8/13.

Spurs take a 1-0 lead to Stamford Bridge thanks to Kane's penalty in the opening tie and have received a boost ahead of the game with the news that Lucas Moura, Moussa Sissoko and Victor Wanyama are all back in training.

It remains to be seen if any of the trio feature on Thursday and supporters have urged the club to add to their stocks this month in order to maintain their top four hopes.

Winning the EFL Cup, which Spurs are 3/1 to do, would certainly appease certain sections of the support and Pochettino has suggested that might have to be the solution, with any new arrivals unlikely before the deadline.

The Argentine insists the club are scouring the market but is adamant that they will only sign the right players if they become available.

"It's going to be difficult, as I told you in the past," he told reporters. "If it was difficult in the summer, because in the end we had the squad full – we didn't have space to sign players because we didn't sell players – now of course it's difficult too.

"Of course we're Tottenham and to find the right profile to help us I think is going to be difficult. But we're trying, we're trying to deliver something."

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Harry to the rescue for Spurs

With Tottenham missing one Harry it was another who scored the late winner away to strugglers Fulham to keep them in the title race. 

Fulham led at half-time through a Fernando Llorente own goal, Dele Alli equalised for Spurs but they struggled in pursuit of a winner and looked to have missed out only for Harry Winks to score with almost the last kick of the game at Craven Cottage.

With Harry Kane missing Mauricio Pochettino had to make changes to his side and Llorente was given a rare start in attack while Danny Rose came in at left-back.

Fulham made a promising start and went close on 10 minutes, Aleksandar Mitrovic doing well to set up Ryan Babel, on his debut, who forced Hugo Lloris into a smart save

However they did not have long to wait to open the scoring and it came via an own goal. Having scored two themselves to hand Burnley victory last weekend, they were beneficiaries this time as Llorente diverted a Jean Michael Sari corner into his own net.

He nearly made amends at the other end shortly afterwards but failed to get on the end of an Erik Lamela cross.

Most of the first half action though came in the Spurs goalmouth and Fulham thought they had doubled their lead before half-time but Mitrovic was flagged offside when heading past Lloris.

Fulham's advantage didn't last long into the second half however, the visitors getting back on level terms on 51 minutes with Dele Alli scoring, heading past Sergio Rico after a good ball from Christian Eriksen.

Spurs were looking the more likely side to get the winner and they hit the woodwork with half an hour remaining, Rose getting into the Fulham area and hitting the bar.

It looked as if Spurs were destined to lose ground on the top two in the Premier League but deep into added time they broke Fulham hearts with a winner, Winks heading home after a cross from Georges-Kevin Nkoudou.

Spurs stay third in the Premier League table with a seven-point gap over Arsenal in fifth but Fulham's defeat leaves them second bottom of the table, seven points from safety.

Spurs are in action in midweek with the semi-final second leg of the EFL Cup, Pochettino's side having a 1-0 first leg victory over Chelsea. They are 17/4 to win on Thursday night at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea are 4/7 while the draw is 16/5.

Spurs are 3/1 to win the trophy while Manchester City are 1/2.

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Guardiola urges more improvement

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says that his team have more improvement in them as they moved nearer to Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.

The current champions moved back to within four points of Jurgen Klopp's side at the top after a comfortable 3-0 win at managerless Huddersfield.

Danilo gave City the lead and two goals in two minutes in the second half from Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane sealed the win that leaves the Terriers still rooted to the bottom of the table.

Having lost manager David Wagner in midweek Mark Hudson took temporary charge but couldn't prevent a ninth defeat in 10 league games that leaves them bottom, 10 points from safety.

City meanwhile have interest at the other end of the table but Guardiola is demanding more from his side as they seek to chase Liverpool and defend their title.

He said after the game: "The way we played we didn't deserve more than three goals. We will improve in the future. We have to demand more from ourselves in every game and do our best, but sometimes it's difficult. They defended deep and man to man.

"What we have done so far has been incredible, in the league and the Carabao Cup. We have an incredible number of points. But this game can teach us and show what we have to do to improve."

City are in midweek action in the Carabao Cup and have surely guaranteed a place in the final, leading League One Burton 9-0 after the semi-final first leg. City are 1/2 to win the cup.

They are also still in the FA Cup and are at home to fellow Premier League side Burnley in round four on Saturday. They are 1/10 to win the game with the Clarets 22/1 and Sean Dyche's side are 8/1 to force a replay.

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