Manchester City's Pellegrini determined to claim League Cup

Andy Hampson 28/10/2015
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Pushing for a start: Manchester City’s youngster Kelechi Iheanacho.

Manuel Pellegrini vowed to name a strong team for tonight’s League Cup clash with Crystal Palace despite Manchester City’s injury problems.

City will again be without Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Gael Clichy, Fabian Delph and Samir Nasri, while Fernandinho is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in the derby draw with Manchester United.

Pellegrini fielded a strong side in the previous round against Sunderland, which was followed by City’s heaviest defeat of the season at Tottenham.

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But the Chilean insisted that has not changed his thinking, saying: “We are trying to have a starting XI tomorrow that is the best we can do in this moment.

“It’s not easy because we have so many players with injuries and maybe a few players are playing a lot of games. 

“But for our team it is important to try to continue in the League Cup.

“When you play the final of a cup at Wembley with 90,000 people, I think it’s always a very important cup.”

Aguero suffered a hamstring injury on international duty with Argentina earlier this month that was expected to rule him out for around four weeks.

Pellegrini said: “He’s improving but he has some time more to be 100 per cent recovered.”

The City boss, whose first trophy in England was the League Cup, may take the opportunity to give one or two of his young players a chance.

Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho, 19, has made six substitute appearances and scored the winner against Palace in their Premier League clash last month.

Eighteen-year-old Patrick Roberts, a summer signing from Fulham, is another to have had a glimpse of the first team this season and he is likely to come into the reckoning again.

Academy graduates have been conspicuous by their absence since City’s big-money takeover but Pellegrini believes that could change sooner rather than later.

He said: “I don’t think it’s a change in direction. The development of young players is always important.

“It’s not easy when you have a strong squad to give them a chance but in the way that they demonstrate they are good players, of course it is very important for our club to try to bring players from the academy to the first team.

“It must be linked with the quality of the player that you have in the squad, not just put the young players in if you think they cannot be the future players of this team.

“I think here we are working very well. We have important players that, maybe not in one month but in a couple of years, will play in the first team.”

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League Cup: Stoke add to Mourinho woe

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Humiliation: Arsenal could not contain Sheffield Wednesday.

Eden Hazard squandered the decisive penalty as Stoke City exacerbated Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s misery with victory in the League Cup on Tuesday, while second-tier Sheffield Wednesday stunned Arsenal 3-0.

After Jon Walters put Stoke ahead with a fine 20-yard shot at the Britannia Stadium, Chelsea substitute Loic Remy, on for the injured Diego Costa, lashed home an injury-time equaliser to make the score 1-1.

Following a goalless period of extra time, the first nine penalties of the shootout were all scored, only for the out-of-form Hazard to see his 10th spot-kick parried by Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland, condemning Chelsea to a ninth defeat of the season and sending the holders out.

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Defending his team’s performance, Mourinho said: “What the players did tonight is face some people that write and speak, and said: ‘You are stupid’.

“What some people write and say is really bad for the players. Maybe they think my players are like them when they were players. My players don’t do that. They tried everything.”

Chelsea’s exit came hot on the heels of a 2-1 defeat at West Ham United on Saturday, which left Mourinho facing a Football Association misconduct charge after being sent to the stands, and ramped up the pressure on the Portuguese ahead of Saturday’s Premier League visit of Liverpool.

With Chelsea currently 15th in the league table and third in their Champions League group, British newspapers have speculated that Mourinho could be sacked if their fortunes do not improve quickly.

Matters began to conspire against Chelsea in the 33rd minute when Costa went off nursing a rib injury following an earlier collision with Butland. Mourinho later revealed he had gone to hospital.

Walters broke the deadlock in style in the 52nd minute, gathering a pass from Glenn Whelan on the edge of the box, swivelling and crashing a shot in off the crossbar.

In reply, Kurt Zouma struck a post for Chelsea before Remy levelled matters in stoppage time, crashing a shot into the roof of the net after Zouma flicked on Willian’s corner.

Moments later Stoke’s Phil Bardsley was sent off after being shown a second yellow card for hacking down Chelsea substitute Kenedy.

But the visitors could not make the most of their numerical advantage in extra time and in the ensuing shootout, it was Hazard, who has endured a wretched start to the season, who blinked first.

At Hillsborough, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal were well beaten by Championship side Wednesday and also lost Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott to injury in the first half.

Ross Wallace put Wednesday ahead after 27 minutes and then teed up Lucas Joao for the hosts’ second goal shortly before half-time, with Sam Hutchinson completing victory early in the second period.

Wenger, who has never won the League Cup, had made eight changes to the team that beat Everton 2-1 on Saturday for the game, which was a repeat of the 1993 final.

Asked how his young fringe players had handled the occasion, he delivered a scathing assessment, telling Sky Sports: “It was too high for them. They are not ready to play at this level, none of them.”

On the injuries to Oxlade-Chamberlain and his replacement Walcott, both of whom limped off inside 18 minutes, he added: “It is a big blow for us, of course to lose the game, but even more for the other competitions, which are very important for us, to lose two players of that stature.”

It was Wednesday’s second Premier League scalp in this season’s competition, following their third-round win at Newcastle United, and brought Arsenal’s run of four successive victories to an end.

“Everything belongs to the players. They were fantastic,” said Wednesday’s Portuguese manager Carlos Carvalhal. “We put a plan together and they did it 100 percent.”

Elsewhere, second-tier Hull City defeated in-form Premier League side Leicester City 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, while Everton also needed penalties to beat Norwich City, 4-3, following another 1-1 draw.

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Premier League Fans’ Top 5: Harry Kane leads the way

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This week's Premier League Fan's Top Five.

Each week, Sport360 will be bring you the best five players from the Premier League, as chosen by you the supporters through our ValoraFutbol fan ratings tool.

YOU have direct influence on who appears in each Top Five so be sure to rate each weekend.

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– #360debate: Will Mourinho turn it around at Chelsea?
– EPL: LVG “sick” of responding to Rooney criticism

Do you agree with this week’s Top Five? Have your say by using our ValoraFutbol fan ratings tool or on Twitter using #360Fans.

1)HARRY KANE (Tottenham Hotspur) – 7.64

After a week of media scrutiny regarding his recent goalscoring drought, Harry Kane answered his critics emphatically with a hat-trick against lowly Bournemouth. The England striker had previously only netted once in the Premier League this season but seems to have found his best form heading towards the crucial Christmas period.

2) CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN (Tottenham Hotspur) – 7.26

While Kane stole the headlines for this goalscoring exploits, many feel that it is Christian Eriksen who really deserves the plaudits in the Tottenham ranks. It is no coincidence that when the Dane is at his creative best (as was the case against Bournemouth) that Kane is given more goalscoring opportunities.

3) ETIENNE CAPOUE (Watford) – 7.09

Defensive midfielder Capoue may have missed a fairly simple opportunity to score a late goal but he will be forgiven by the travelling Watford fans after a superb display in their 2-0 win against Stoke. The Frenchman snuffed out Charlie Adam’s attacks with ease and proved an impenetrable wall for 90mins.

4) MARTIN SKRTEL (Liverpool) – 7.00

It was another frustraing draw for Liverpool but it could have easily been an embarrassing loss for Jurgen Klopp had Skrtel not been on hand to imperiously swat away a certain goal for Pelle. Liverpool are yet to find their attacking best but Skrtel has been leading a fairly tight defensive effort on Merseyside.

5) JAMIE VARDY (Leicester City) – 6.87

It is not by luck that Jamie Vardy is the Premier League’s top-scorer and the Englishman continued his rich vein of form with a goal that sealed high-flying Leicester City’s win. Vardy has now scored in seven successive league matches and doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.

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