Though Manchester City trail Everton by 1-2 ahead of tonight’s Capital One Cup semifinal second leg match at the Etihad Stadium, Manuel Pellegrini’s side knows exactly what it needs to do to progress to the Wembley final on the 28th of February. City need to win by a two-goal margin or score a goal and keep a cleansheet, to reach next month’s final. The task may not be as straightforward, though.
City need to defend well, something which they did not do in the Barclays Premier League away clash against West Ham United last Saturday, and prioritise keeping a cleansheet. The tie would not favor City if Everton get on the scoresheet. Having said that, I think Kelechi Iheanacho holds the key to City’s chances of progressing to the finals. Here’s the reason(s) why.
Kelechi Iheanacho Holds The Key To Manchester City-Everton Capital One Cup Semifinal Second Leg
Goals have been hard to come by for City this season, and they have not been the free-scoring side of the 2013-14 or even 14/15 campaigns. City have failed to score on six occasions already this season, just one less than the number of blanks they fired in the whole of last season. Sergio Aguero’s prolonged layoffs due to muscular injuries cannot be overlooked, with Wilfried Bony also not producing the number of goals expected of him. Iheanacho too, has been slightly under-utilised by Pellegrini, considering the confidence and wherewithal the Nigerian Striker has exuded while playing for City this season.
Tonight, with City needing goals to win the league cup semifinal tie against the Toffees, they need their strikers to do the job for them. Iheanacho will add to City’s attacking firepower and importantly share the workload with Aguero. The 19-year-old striker has two goals and two assists in two appearances in this competition for City, who are playing their fourth league cup semifinal in the last seven seasons.
Talking of Iheanacho, not only is he a reliable goal scorer, but he has the vision, as well, to setup goals for his team mates. This facet of his game was evident in City’s fourth round win, a 5-1 thumping at home against Crystal Palace. Him teeing-up Kevin de Bruyne for City’s second goal on that fine October night was particularly impressive, while he went on to rack up another assist too.
Now, with de Bruyne and David Silva not in their best moments, City will benefit from Iheanacho’s ability to create goals and play those incisive passes in the final-third of the pitch. The dynamic duo looked their unusual selves against the Hammers last Saturday, when they created a mere four chances between them. Iheanacho, on the other hand, provided City with the creative spark they were lacking prior to his arrival. Again, he is in that good vain of form, unlike Silva and de Bruyne, and will pose a genuine threat to the Everton backline and Joel Robles’ goal.
Aguero, as always, has played well as a lone striker in City’s 4-2-3-1 formation. However, he has been a bit frustrated in certain games with the lack of service from those behind him. Including Iheanacho in City’s starting lineup tonight will help Aguero play in partnership with the Nigerian, thus not feeling all that isolated upfront. Aguero and Iheanacho have proved to be quite a deadly partnership in the games they have played together this month. Aguero assisted Iheanacho’s goal in the FA Cup third round match against Norwich City, giving a glimpse of what he can do when played alongside another striker. At Boleyn Ground last Saturday, Iheanacho returned the favor.
This does promise to be a fascinating encounter with Everton looking to cancel out City’s away goal from the first-leg. City’s rearguard has question marks over its ability to keep the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, Seamus Coleman, to name a few, from scoring. That is the reason why scoring goals – and thereby trying to win the tie on aggregate, and not on away goals – has to be the priority for City. Iheanacho, therefore, is indispensable, and in my opinion, should start alongside Aguero tonight. The aforementioned reasons tell you how and why he can make the difference for tonight’s hosts.