Match Time：1/7/2021 03:45 Thursday (GMT+8)
The two most in-form teams in the Premier League turn their attention to the EFL Cup on Thursday morning as Manchester United host Manchester City in a mouth-watering derby at Old Trafford. The local rivals are meeting in the semi-finals of the competition for the second year in a row, and both of them come into the contest off the back of notable weekend wins.
Manchester derbies are always hugely anticipated affairs, but Wednesday's showdown is particularly promising with a place at Wembley up for grabs and both teams coming into the match in fine form.Victories over Aston Villa and Chelsea respectively at the weekend ramped up the talk of a potential title challenge for both clubs, despite both making underwhelming starts to the season.They have since made up for lost time, though; Man United have taken 26 points from the last 30 on offer in the top flight, with Friday night's triumph over Aston Villa sending them level on points with champions Liverpool at the summit, while Man City have won five and lost none of their last seven league games.It was the nature of Man City's triumph over Chelsea on Sunday which raised talk of a potential title challenge as Pep Guardiola's side put the Blues to the sword during a clinical display at Stamford Bridge.The fact that it has taken until the New Year for such talk to really arise shows how far below par Man City have been for much of the campaign, although in terms of defeats they have only suffered two in their 24 outings across all competitions this season - three times fewer than Wednesday's opponents. Despite that, it is Man United who sit second in the table, three places and four points above their neighbours, albeit having played a game more.The Red Devils also have great pedigree in this competition, with this match being their 16th appearance in the League Cup semi-finals - second only to Liverpool.Man United have progressed from nine of their previous 15 semi-finals, but have been knocked out in two of their last three and, as is the case with the Premier League as well, it is Man City who have had the greater bragging rights in this competition in recent years.Indeed, Guardiola's men are bidding to lift the trophy for the sixth time in the last eight seasons this term, and for the fourth time in a row - a feat only previously achieved by Liverpool from 1981 to 1984.Should Man City go all the way again then they would also equal Liverpool as the most successful club in the competition's history, having won the trophy seven times compared to five for Man United. The holders cannot allow their focus to drift beyond Wednesday's game, though; remarkably they have only lost two of their 23 League Cup matches under Guardiola, and they have both come at the hands of Manchester United.The most recent of those was in the second leg of last season's semi-final when Man United won at the Etihad but were still knocked out as Man City marched on to the trophy again, having won the first leg 3-1 at Old Trafford.A repeat of that result would do City just fine in what is a one-legged semi-final this season as they look to progress from a League Cup tie for the 19th time in a row, a run which stretches back to that first Man United defeat in October 2016.Guardiola has won 17 of his 24 matches as a manager in this competition, while Man City as a club have progressed from each of their last five League Cup semi-finals, winning the trophy each time.Add to that the fact that the home team has ended up on the winning side in just three of the last 14 Manchester derbies, and Man City will be arriving at Old Trafford full of confidence. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has won three of his six managerial meetings with Guardiola - the Spaniard's worst loss percentage against any manager he has faced at least five times - and the hosts will be similarly convinced of their chance to progress to the final on Wednesday night.The Red Devils have found a winning formula in recent weeks to the extent that Solskjaer's job, which was under threat less than a month ago following their exit from the Champions League, is now seemingly as secure as it has ever been.A 2-1 win over Aston Villa on New Year's Day means that they have now won four and drawn one of their last five home league games, having picked up just one point from their previous four such outings before that.Man City's away form is also good - three wins in a row and just one defeat in 15 across all competitions - but that includes a drab derby draw at Old Trafford last month which is best consigned to history.Guardiola's men have looked increasingly strong defensively while Man United are yet to concede a League Cup goal this season and so a repeat of that stalemate is not entirely out of the question, but this contest does seem to promise many more fireworks than that one provided.
Manchester United EFL Cup form: WWW
Manchester United form (all competitions): WWWDWW
Manchester City EFL Cup form: WWW
Manchester City form (all competitions): DDWWWW
The EFL Cup usually results in a raft of changes being made by the Premier League's top teams, but with both of these clubs having FA Cup games at home to Championship opposition next up, there could be two strong sides named on Wednesday.Man City's options are severely limited, though, with as many as eight players in danger of missing out, six of whom have fallen foul of the coronavirus outbreak at the club.Ederson, Gabriel Jesus, Kyle Walker, Ferran Torres, Eric Garcia and Tommy Doyle were all missing against Chelsea due to COVID-19 and are expected to be absent on Wednesday too.Jesus and Walker would have completed their 10-day isolation period by the time the match is played and so could be available in theory, although they will first have to provide a negative test.On top of that, Guardiola was also without defensive duo Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake for the trip to Chelsea and, while neither problem is thought to be serious, they could again miss out here due to the quick turnaround.Phil Foden scored at Stamford Bridge and will hope to be awarded another start here, having had a direct hand in nine goals from his last 12 League Cup appearances.Man United have had an extra two days of rest prior to this game and that could afford them the luxury of naming as close to a full-strength team as possible.Victor Lindelof remains a doubt having missed the last two games with a back injury, while Edinson Cavani serves the second of his three-match ban for a social media post which contained an allegedly discriminatory word.Dean Henderson is expected to return in goal in place of David de Gea, while Solskjaer must also decide whether to bring the likes of Alex Telles, Mason Greenwood, Donny van de Beek and Juan Mata back into the side.
Manchester United possible starting lineup: Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred, Pogba; Fernandes; Martial, Rashford
Manchester City possible starting lineup: Steffen; Cancelo, Dias, Stones, Mendy; Fernandinho, Gundogan; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden; Aguero
Head To Head
These two sides have already met once this season at Old Trafford, although that entirely forgettable goalless draw does not accurately represent the excitement this fixture usually provides.Thursday will be the fourth time the two rivals have met in the semi-finals of this competition - a joint-record alongside the North London derby - and sees them do so for the second year in a row, with Man City winning 3-2 on aggregate last season.However, Man United are now unbeaten in their last three games against Man City across all competitions, keeping clean sheets in all of those, and could go four without defeat against their rivals for the first time since February 2011.
Manchester United VS Manchester City
Manchester United 2-2 Manchester City (Man City to win on penalties)