United, City in a rut ahead of League Cup derby

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Jose Mour­inho is reel­ing from his heav­i­est loss in English soc­cer. Pep Guardi­ola has matched the long­est win­less run of his coach­ing ca­reer.

Things are about to get worse for one of the man­agers when Manch­ester United and Manch­ester City meet to­day in the fourth round of the English League Cup. It's the sec­ond headto-head al­ready this sea­son be­tween two coaches who had an of­ten-tem­pes­tu­ous ri­valry in Spain.

Of the four com­pe­ti­tions United and City are in­volved in this sea­son, the League Cup is the low­est pri­or­ity for both man­agers, but the im­por­tance of a vic­tory at Old Traf­ford has in­ten­si­fied be­cause of their teams' cur­rent form.

United has won just one of its last six Premier League games and lost 4-0 at Chelsea on Sun­day, a per­sonal em­bar­rass­ment for Mour­inho at his for­mer club. City is win­less in its last five matches in all com­pe­ti­tions, match­ing Guardi­ola's ca­reer low at Barcelona in 2009.

For that rea­son, Mour­inho and Guardi­ola may choose not to ro­tate their line­ups as much as they might have wanted to.

"Young play­ers have to be in­volved in the team's good mo­ment, and you can­not for­get now the last five games we didn't win," Guardi­ola said yes­ter­day. "To help the young play­ers, you have to be in­volved in a good en­vi­ron­ment, with peo­ple with ex­pe­ri­ence.

"To put three, four, five young play­ers in at the same time is not a good idea be­cause we have to pro­tect them."

The blue half of Manch­ester has had lo­cal brag­ging rights since Septem­ber 10, when City beat United 2-1 at Old Traf­ford in a per­for­mance that earned wide­spread praise for a side in the mid­dle of a club-record win­ning run of 10 games. That game also un­der­lined that United was still a work in progress un­der Mour­inho, as sub­se­quent re­sults have proved.

If Mour­inho plays a strong team and loses a derby for the sec­ond time in un­der two months, he will face even more crit­i­cism.

Here's a look at some prob­lem ar­eas af­fect­ing the two teams, and where Mour­inho and Guardi­ola might turn:

MANCH­ESTER UNITED There are is­sues for Mour­inho through­out the team.

Up front, Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic has re­gressed since open­ing the sea­son with four goals in his first three games. He has scored just once in his last eight games in all com­pe­ti­tions and may be left out to give Mar­cus Rash­ford a game as lone striker.

Paul Pogba has stood out in only a few games since his ar­rival in Au­gust for a world-record fee of $116 mil­lion — and not yet in a game of any real mag­ni­tude. Mour­inho hasn't found the best po­si­tion for the France in­ter­na­tional, who flour­ished on the left of a three-man cen­tral mid­field for for­mer team Ju­ven­tus and has been tried in at­tack­ing and de­fen­sive mid­field po­si­tions at United. Mour­inho must de­cide if Pogba starts a fourth game in 10 days.

United's de­fense has now been hit by a sus­pected knee lig­a­ment in­jury to cen­ter back Eric Bailly, pos­si­bly the team's best de­fender this sea­son. Da­ley Blind and Chris Smalling may start at cen­ter back.

MANCH­ESTER CITY De­fense is Guardi­ola's big­gest area of con­cern after five win­less games in which mis­takes at the back have been ruth­lessly pun­ished by Celtic, Tot­ten­ham, Ever­ton, Barcelona and Southamp­ton.

Guardi­ola has played three at the back in the last two league games, and may re­turn to a four­man de­fense and play young­ster Pablo Maf­feo at right back. An­other 19-year-old player, Aleix Gar­cia, is set to play in cen­tral mid­field as Kevin De Bruyne is out with a calf in­jury.

Ser­gio Aguero hasn't started two of City's last three games, so may be one of the se­nior stars in the start­ing side. Oth­er­wise, Kelechi Iheana­cho will lead the at­tack.

YES­TER­DAY’S MATCHES Liver­pool striker Daniel Stur­ridge and Arse­nal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both scored twice as the ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers se­cured pas­sage for their youth­ful teams into the quar­ter­fi­nals of the League Cup yes­ter­day.

Stur­ridge's dou­ble elim­i­nated Tot­ten­ham with a 2-1 vic­tory at An­field, his first Liver­pool goals since also net­ting twice in the League Cup in Au­gust.

After fir­ing into the roof of the net from Marko Gru­jic's cross in the ninth minute, the Eng­land striker tucked the ball un­der Tot­ten­ham goal­keeper Michel Vorm in the sec­ond half. Vin­cent Janssen pulled one back from the penalty spot but Tot­ten­ham couldn't force ex­tra time against its Premier League ti­tle ri­val.

It was a smoother night for Arse­nal against Read­ing, de­spite only beat­ing the sec­ond-tier League Cham­pi­onship club 2-0.

Oxlade-Chamberlain poked the ball through de­fender Tyler Black­ett's legs into the cor­ner of the net to put Arse­nal ahead in the 33rd minute. A de­flected shot from the Eng­land in­ter­na­tional dou­bled Arse­nal's lead in the 78th. League Cup

Yes­ter­day Arse­nal-Read­ing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-0 Bris­tol City-Hull City . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-2 Leeds-Nor­wich . . . . . . . . . 2-2 (3-2 pen) Liver­pool-Tot­ten­ham . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-1 New­cas­tle U-Pre­ston NE . . . . . . . . . . 6-0 To­day Southamp­ton-Sun­der­lans . . . . . . . . . . . West Ham-Chelsea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Man Utd-Man City . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

League 2

Yes­ter­day New­port C-Bar­net . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-2 Premier

Yes­ter­day Hamil­ton-Aberdeen DFB Pokal . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-0

Yes­ter­day Din.Dres­den-Ar­minia Biele­feld . . . . . 0-1 Freiburg-Sand­hausen . . . . 3-3 (3-4 pen) Lotte-Lev­erkusen . . . . . . . 2-2 (4-3 pen) Wuerzburger-1860 Munich . . 0-0(3-4p) M’glad­bach-Stuttgart . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-0 E.Frankfurt-In­gol­stadt . . . . 0-0 (4-1 pen) Hallescher-Ham­burg . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-4 St.Pauli-Hertha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-2

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