Pep Guardiola is hoping to complete a Wembley hat-trick next month after Manchester City’s quadruple ambitions were kept alive by safe passage into the Carabao Cup final.
Guardiola’s side secured a 5-3 aggregate triumph over Bristol City after beating the Sky Bet Championship outsiders 3-2 at Ashton Gate on Tuesday night.
City will now play either Arsenal or Chelsea at Wembley on February 25 – a stadium which holds special resonance for Guardiola after Barcelona were crowned kings of Europe there twice during his time at the club.
Guardiola played in Barcelona’s first European Cup success at the old Wembley in 1992, and he was in charge when they beat Manchester United at the rebuilt stadium in 2011.
“It is a special place for my career, as a football player I won in the old Wembley when Barcelona won the Champions League for the first time,” Guardiola said.
“I also won there as a manager, but it is not just special for me. It is special for all of us at Manchester City.
“We are so happy to be in the final, it is an achievement for everybody.”
Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero rewarded City’s dominance and put them in cruise control with goals either side of the interval.
But Marlon Pack and Aden Flint levelled to send a 26,000 sell-out Ashton Gate crowd into raptures.
Kevin De Bruyne, however, had the last word as he restored City’s lead on the night with the final kick of the match.
“I think we played amazing in the first half, but we lost control,” added Guardiola, who said he was unsure whether England defender Kyle Walker had broken his nose after receiving a kick on it late on.
“Maybe that will be good for the Champions League against Basel, it shows that 90 minutes is too long and anything can happen.
“Last season we were in the semi-final of the FA Cup and I am delighted to be in the final.
“It is a competition which demands a lot and takes a lot of energy when you are playing Premier League and other matches.
“It is tough on your mentality, but once we arrive in the semi-final we have to try and get to the final.
“I am pleased to be there and hopefully we will arrive in a good condition.”
Bristol City still have much to play for this season as they are currently in the Championship play-off positions and chasing promotion to the Premier League.
But manager Lee Johnson paid tribute to his players after a memorable cup run which saw them knock out four Premier League clubs – Watford, Crystal Palace, Stoke and Manchester United.
“I’m very proud, not just of the team but of the club,” Johnson said.
“It’s been a fantastic run, which unfortunately has come to an end against a top side.
“The fact is, it’s taken two injury-time goals in both legs to beat us.
“Although they had the lion’s share of the possession, I thought we continued to show our spirit.”
The transfer window is heading into the final straight and the last-minute dash to secure all-important transfers is speeding up. Here, we look at the top rumours doing the rounds in Europe’s media today.
CITY PLOT DOUBLE SWOOP FOR LAPORTE AND FRED
Manchester City are moving on from the Alexis Sanchez saga with bids incoming for Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred and Athletic Bilbao centre-back Aymeric Laporte, according to Goal.
Laporte was previously targeted in the summer of 2016 but rejected a move to City in favour of remaining at his boyhood club while Fred is viewed as the long-term replacement for Fernandinho.
City are hopeful they can get both pieces of business done before the end of the month although the Laporte deal is complicated by the fact he has pulled out of moving to the Etihad Stadium before.
His €65million release clause is more than affordable but it remains to be seen whether they can lure him away from the Basque club. Fred, on the other hand, is widely expected to move to the Premier League but the question is when.
According to the report, they are trying to convince the Ukrainians to allow the Brazilian to depart in this window rather than wait for a summer arrival.
Manchester City want to sign both Fred (24) from Shakhtar Donetsk and Aymeric Laporte (23) from Athletic Bilbao this month. Laporte has shown the desire to join City now and Txiki has contacted his agent, though an agreement has not yet been reached. [@Sammy_Goal] pic.twitter.com/GWegdtxETf— City Watch (@City_Watch) January 23, 2018
VIDAL TARGETED BY MAN UNITED AND CHELSEA
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal is wanted by both Chelsea and Manchester United, according to the Daily Express.
Vidal has a year remaining on his current contract and Chilean journalist Maks Cardenas reports there is a chance the 30-year-old could follow international team-mate Alexis Sanchez to Old Trafford.
Leon Goretzka’s summer arrival from Schalke could spell the end of Vidal’s Bayern career and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is a known admirer of the Chilean.
Tiemoue Bakayoko’s dreadful first season with the Blues has sparked talk of reinforcements but they will face a stiff battle from United who need to bolster their own midfield with Michael Carrick’s retirement and Marouane Fellaini’s probable departure.
Arsene Wenger has confirmed Arsenal are in talks to sign Borussia Dortmund forward Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, but the Frenchman believes a deal is far from close to completion.
The Gunners completed a swap deal with Manchester United on Monday which saw Alexis Sanchez leave for Old Trafford with Henrikh Mkhitaryan moving in the opposite direction.
But their January transfer business is far from over with the club heavily linked with Dortmund’s Gabon international Aubameyang.
A €50million was reportedly rejected last week with the Bundesliga giants seeking in and around the €60million mark.
However, Wenger confirmed talks are underway with Arsenal officials believed to be in Germany to thrash out a deal.
“Confident or not confident, I don’t know. At the moment we are not close to do any deals, either Aubameyang or anyone else,” he said ahead of the second leg of the League Cup semi-final tie with Chelsea. “The negotiations are not as close as that [including Olivier Giroud in deal].
“He is one of our possible movements but there are others. The final decision is not made. You look at players what can they give to the team. Good players can always play together.”
The Frenchman added: “We are a serious football club that has responsibilities and we want to spend the money we can afford. We have decisions to make. If you cannot afford, you have to say no, you cannot do that.”