Carling Cup preview: Manchester City v Manchester United

It’s nearly 29 years since Paul Power scored the only goal against the then high flying Ipswich Town in City’s last major cup semi-final (we’re discouting the Full Members Cup here).  That gap of time alone makes this Carling Cup semi-final a huge and historic fixture. The fact that it’s against United makes it bigger still.

If Craig Bellamy misses out due to his inability to play twice in a week, then our left flank could be weakened defensively. As has been well documented neither Robinho or Petrov offer the same level of tracking back. With Petrov having been injured at Everton, there could be a chance for Robinho to provide a riposte to his critics. Alternatively, if Mancini wants to stiffen the left flank, he could play both Garrido and Sylvinho.

Mancini may want to bring in fresh legs after the defeat at Goodison and Nedum Onuoha is an option for central defence. Micah Richards could move to right-back to give us a more physically imposing back four.

Central midfield is the area where we could most do with a lift, but options are limited with Vieira still injured and Ireland only able to take a place on the bench. Having Tevez play as a second striker and dropping deep to harry Fletcher and co. is probably our best bet.

Patrice Evra:

“I get a text from Carlos every day. I congratulated him on his hat-trick against Blackburn but he replied that was just the warm-up for United!”

With Adebayor still in Togo, this is the time when we really need Roque Santa Cruz. However, we seem to have signed a £17m striker whose legs aren’t up to running around – it’s not even challenges that cause the injuries. As a result, if we want to have a physical presence up front, then we’re looking at Benjani.

The Zimbabwean would have followed Caceido, Bojinov, Jo and Ched Evans out of Eastlands in the Summer, only we couldn’t find anyone to take him. It’s a bit of a shock to be considering him to lead the line for both legs of the semi-final. Maybe he can replicate his finest moment in a City shirt and score another Old Trafford winner.

Shaun Wright-Phillips should return to the right flank and this feels like a definite plus after watching Petrov increasingly struggle to make an impression.

United’s side is more difficult to predict as Ferguson claims he will include young players, though it will be a stronger side than that which lost to Leeds. It would be typical of him to spring a surprise.

Three players can be highlighted who could cause problems: Rooney for obvious reasons; Valencia with his pace is a threat against our weakest defensive position of left-back; Darren Fletcher, who should be fresh after being suspended for their last game. Barry and de Jong are looking jaded but they need to raise themselves to win the midfield battle in a manner they failed to do against Everton and at Old Trafford earlier in the season.

Roberto Mancini:

“I am new in Manchester City, so the trophy is important to me. But the same is true for the players and the club because when you start to win trophies, you change your mentality.”

It promises to be a huge game, particularly for us, but we’ll need to remember there’s a second leg. Winning by a single goal might feel great on the night, but won’t be a huge advantage. A two goal margin would give us more room for hope.

Blue Days line-up: Given, Garrido, Richards, Onuoha, Kompany, de Jong, Barry, Robinho, Wright-Phillips, Tevez, Benjani.

Prediction: 3-0 to City.

Player ratings: Everton v Manchester City
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