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Manchester City favourites, but Arsenal could shock in the Carabao Cup final

Arsenal
Photo: Reuters

Arsenal

Manchester City favourites, but Arsenal could shock in the Carabao Cup final

Manchester City are heavy favourites to win Sunday’s Carabao Cup final at Wembley, but Arsenal could surprise those doubting them, writes Ryan Smart.

Arsenal head to Wembley on Sunday to face Manchester City looking to add to their cup trophy cabinet that has built up over the last few seasons.

They have won the FA Cup three times in the last four seasons, although remarkably manager Arsene Wenger has never won the League Cup.

They reached the final in 2011, back when the tournament was known as the Carling Cup, only to be beaten 2-1 by Birmingham City, a defensive mix up between Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny leading to Obafemi Martins firing home the winner late on.

If Birmingham were perhaps unfancied opposition back then, their opponents this season are the complete opposite.

Despite defeat to Wigan Athletic on Monday night, Pep Guardiola’s City side are still looking for the treble – winning this would be the first step towards achieving that goal.

Only two English teams have beaten the Citizens this season, the other being Liverpool last month, in what can be described as one of the greatest matches in Premier League history.

Wenger, however, won’t be threatened by City’s superior record this season.

Arsenal may not be the force they once were in terms of dominating English football, but they almost always put in a strong performance on the country’s biggest stage.

They were excellent in last season’s FA Cup final, beating a Chelsea side that had won the league with ease just a week earlier.

They went 2-0 down to Hull City early on in 2014’s final, but they fought back and showed great character to win that game 3-2, an Aaron Ramsey goal sealing the tie in extra time.

The side will be without influential playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan on Sunday, the Armenian cup tied having already featured for Manchester United in the competition this season.

They don’t exactly have strong depth on the bench, with Alexandre Lacazette definitely out and Ramsey doubtful, but Mesut Ozil is available.

With the issues surrounding his contract now gone, Ozil can concentrate solely on his football, and you sense that can only benefit both himself and Arsenal.

If Ozil plays well on Sunday, the Gunners have a real chance of lifting the trophy.

He will have to get past a City defence that has been a lot more solid this season than in 2016/17.

John Stones in particular has transformed his game, and although the back four is still prone to an occasional mistake, such as Kyle Walker’s error on Monday that led to Wigan’s winner, they will provide a tough test for Arsenal’s strikeforce.

With pressure growing on Arsenal from some sections of the fanbase, Sunday will be a big game for Wenger as he looks to silence the doubters ahead of what will be an important final three months of the season for the Gunners.

City are deservedly favourites after their almost invincible season up to now, but don’t be surprised if Arsenal are victorious at the current home of their bitter rivals.

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