The League (Carabao) Cup usually means very little to the fans whose teams get knocked out early. For the past three seasons, it has been the pet trophy of Manchester City, who have again made it to the semi-finals this year. Here, we take a look at each semi-finalist and what winning the Carabao Cup would mean to each one of them.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR VS BRENTFORD
“José Mourinho is a serial winner. It’s just what he does.”
Indeed, José Mourinho has won trophies at every club he’s managed – the track record that landed him the Spurs job. Having not won a trophy in twelve years, the Tottenham hierarchy finally put aside the idea of “attractive football” and gave the job to a manager whose playing style albeit difficult to digest, ensures glory.
Tottenham have started this season looking like a proper Mourinho side – adept at sitting on their haunches, ready to pounce on any chance gifted to them at breakneck speed. While there have been a few bumps, the Kane-Son duo has easily been one of the deadliest combos in Europe. With the team being just two wins away from a major silverware, Mourinho will be licking his lips at the chance to grab the Carabao Cup and declare his time at Tottenham already a success. The prospect of winning is the only reason Spurs fans will entertain Mourinho’s drab football, so the quicker he can land them that trophy, the better; for all parties involved.
On paper, Brentford are arguably the easiest side one could have asked for as a semi-final opponent. While Mourinho is too smart to underestimate their threat, he’ll certainly back himself up against them and whoever he gets to face in the final, should Spurs win. After all, when it comes to setting up a team to thwart a specific opposition, there are few better than the Special One himself.
The last few years have been good to Brentford. A well-run club with right-minded owners making the right decisions for the club over a long period of time has made Brentford tailor-made to play in the Premier League.
Brentford’s last season ended in disappointment when they lost in the Playoff final to Fulham, having been one of the strongest contenders to get direct promotion to the Premier League for most of the season. This season, the team has continued to impress under manager Thomas Frank. Another summer of acute player acquisition at the back of shrewd sales have made the London side more prepared for the top-flight as they currently sit fourth in the Championship, ready to go deep into another promotion run.
Brentford come into the semi-final at the back of beating four Premier League clubs in Southampton, West Brom, Fulham, and Newcastle United. They have already proved that they cannot be intimated by the teams playing a league above them, so Tottenham will do good to remember that and not sleepwalk themselves into a major upset.
Very few are giving Brentford any prayer, and yet everyone loves a good underdog story.
MANCHESTER UNITED VS MANCHESTER CITY
Manchester United’s last cup triumph came in the form of a Europa League win 2017. Since then, they have won no silverware, and will gladly take the Carabao Cup with open arms.
While Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side lost three semi-finals last season, it is also to be noted that the team managed to reach the last four of every major cup competition they played in. This season, Ole’s critics loom large and will continue to do so, but it is imperative for the club to win a silverware to assuage the existential fog of mediocrity that has thickened since they last won a trophy.
The Red Devils face fierce rivals Manchester City, whom they were beaten by at the same stage last year. That, however, was a two-legged affair, while this season the semi-finals are one-legged considering the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Manchester United have continued to maintain a Jekyll and Hyde style this season – blowing big teams away one day, then getting battered by an average team the other. There’s effectively no way to correctly ascertain which United will turn up against City. However, the Red Devils won three out of four encounters against their fierce rivals last year, and drew with them earlier this month. While a two-legged tie would have made things complicated, the current United squad is more than capable of beating any team on the planet over 90 minutes, granted they turn up.
Manchester City winning the Carabao Cup for a fourth consecutive year will probably be the worst outcome for the competition itself. That said, Pep Guardiola has always targeted this competition to springboard his side’s confidence going into the business end of the season.
The Cityzens have had a very average start to their season. They currently sit fifth in the league, behind Manchester United, after a slight resuscitation in their form. The absence of Sergio Agüero has been a real challenge for Guardiola this season, as he comes to terms with the fact that the legendary Argentinian needs to be replaced sooner rather than later. Despite that, he’ll back his team to outplay the Red Devils on the pitch. It is to be noted here that City usually have a hard time if they go behind in a match, so it’s safe to assume Guardiola will be preparing them to come out of the gates fast and draw the first blood as soon as possible.
Despite the average start, Manchester City continue to be favourites to not only challenge Liverpool for the Premier League title, but also go deep into the Champions League. For them, winning this semi-final is not only vital to move one step closer to the trophy, but to also maintain the belief that this season is far from a forgone conclusion, and could yet prove to be one of the most fruitful ones in the club’s history.