Football: Same cup, different objectives

Fernandinho, who has played the most number of minutes for Manchester City so far this season, challenging Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes in City's 2-1 league win last Saturday.
Fernandinho, who has played the most number of minutes for Manchester City so far this season, challenging Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes in City's 2-1 league win last Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

City want League Cup as 1 of 4, Everton hope to end 20-year trophy drought

LONDON • Manchester City head to Goodison Park for their League Cup semi-final first-leg clash against Everton today with the aim of keeping their quadruple hopes alive.

Manuel Pellegrini's side are still in the League Cup, Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup, with their campaign in the last competition due to start at Norwich on Saturday.

But, despite the hectic schedule lying in wait, midfielder Fernandinho, who has started all but two of City's games this season, insists he does not need a rest.

"My body works best when I'm playing all the time, so when I work more and I play more, I feel better," said the Brazilian. "My target is to win the Premier League, the Cup competitions and see how far we can go in Europe.

"I can rest at the end of the season and enjoy time with my family. That's when I'll recharge my batteries, not before."

Fernandinho has played more minutes (2,516) than any other City player this season, with defender Bacary Sagna (2,383) the next busiest player.

And the Frenchman has warned his team-mates that they must start seizing the initiative in matches.

City scored twice in the last eight minutes to beat Watford 2-1 on Saturday at Vicarage Road. The visitors looked to be on the verge of losing ground in the title race until Yaya Toure volleyed home in the 82nd minute before Sergio Aguero sealed the victory.

"We felt confident because this is not the first time this has happened, that we have come back from being 1-0 down to win the game and score at the end," Sagna told the British media. "But we have to be more careful, because that won't happen every time.You have to take the game and create more chances before you concede."

City know that another good away result will boost their chances of reaching the final at Wembley on Feb 28 and regain a trophy they last lifted in 2014.

But it has been more than 20 years since Everton last won a trophy and Roberto Martinez says more silverware is long overdue.

The FA Cup in 1995 was the last addition to the trophy cabinet at Goodison Park, which during the 1980s had also been home to two league titles and a further FA Cup success in 1984. That was also the year Everton lost in the final of the League Cup, going down 0-1 to Liverpool in a replay.

Only once before, seven years previously, had Everton reached the final of the League Cup. But now they are just two legs of a semi-final against City away from going back to Wembley to face either Liverpool or Stoke City.

Martinez's side have reached the last four of the competition for the first time since 2008 and the Everton manager is determined to end the trophy drought.

"I think we are on the right track in having a team that excites us," he said. "I truly believe we are not far away from bringing glory to our football club.

"That's something we want more than anything, to be able to give our fans a taste of becoming a winning team once again."

Everton are currently 11th in the Premier League after drawing 1-1 at home to fourth-placed Tottenham on Sunday. That position does not perhaps reflect the talent Martinez has in his squad in the shape of England defenders John Stones and Leighton Baines, Ross Barkley in midfield and 18-goal top scorer Romelu Lukaku in attack.

City will start as favourites and will have had an extra day's rest ahead of the first leg on Merseyside. But despite failing to win at Goodison Park since November, Baines is hoping to make home advantage count ahead of the return leg at Eastlands on Jan 27.

"It's a great place to play in games like that and it's one to look forward to. It's a really exciting game for us to be involved in," he said.

"It's a busy time for us and so we have to do everything right on the pitch as well, in terms of recovery and preparation to make sure we leave no stone unturned to try and make it to the final."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2016, with the headline 'Same cup, different objectives'. Print Edition | Subscribe