Pep wants League Cup as springboard for title

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger acknowledges the threat from City standout Kevin de Bruyne, but rules out man-marking the Belgian.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger acknowledges the threat from City standout Kevin de Bruyne, but rules out man-marking the Belgian.

LONDON • If Manchester City defeat Arsenal in tomorrow's League Cup final, their quest to become English football's second most successful single-season side after Manchester United will take flight.

The value of the least desired major trophy has become priceless because of what it could be a part of for City and their manager, Pep Guardiola: a treble of the League Cup, Premier League and Champions League.

The first demand is to outplay Arsenal.

According to British media, Guardiola seems likely to extend his contract, currently due to expire end of next season, and Wembley represents a golden chance for the Spaniard to lift his first trophy with City.

At his pre-match press conference yesterday, he confirmed Claudio Bravo would start and that Gabriel Jesus could make the squad but Raheem Sterling was a doubt.

He urged his side to seize the moment, and to use the League Cup as a springboard for the league title.

"We are here to win the titles. We are involved in three. The first step was to arrive in the final, we are in it," Guardiola said.

FIRST THE LEAGUE CUP, THEN...

We are here to win the titles... We will try to do what we have done this season, and after, we have (the) six games we need to win to be champions and win the most prestigious title in this country.

PEP GUARDIOLA , Man City manager, on the League Cup being a springboard for the Premier League title.

"Finals are special... It depends how brave you are. Don't have regrets.

"Don't be scared to play the finals, be brave, try to score.

"We will try to do what we have done this season, and after, we have (the) six games we need to win to be champions and win the most prestigious title in this country."

But, while Arsenal are out of the title race, Arsene Wenger has vowed to be party-poopers against fancied opposition.

The Frenchman promised to go on the offensive yesterday in his pre-match press conference as he bids to lift the League Cup for the first time.

Wenger has twice been beaten in the final of the League Cup, by Chelsea in 2007 and Birmingham City in 2011.

When asked at his pre-match press conference what was the key to beating City, he admitted attack was the best policy.

"To first of all have a strong belief, be well-organised and take every opportunity to go forward and play our offensive game," he said.

He acknowledged the threat from City standout Kevin de Bruyne but ruled out man-marking the Belgian.

"One of the big strengths of Manchester City is de Bruyne of course, because he has become a very complete player," Wenger said.

"They have so many players that you have to stop that it is better to focus on the team plan rather than on any individual."

After resting key men against Ostersunds in Thursday's Europa League tie, Wenger also said his big guns would return except for Alex Lacazette (injured) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (ineligible).

Arsenal lost the game 2-1 but reached the last 16 4-2 on aggregate to set up a clash with AC Milan.

"For us, it's an opportunity. We'll play with all our regular players. We want to win it, we want our fans to go home happy.

"I know how big a day it is.... Wembley is always special."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2018, with the headline 'Pep wants League Cup as springboard for title'. Print Edition | Subscribe