Preview: Southampton vs. Manchester City
Southampton welcome Manchester City to St Mary’s for their quarter-final clash in the EFL Cup on Wednesday night, with a place in the last four up for grabs.
The Saints have beaten three lower-league teams to reach this stage, while the Citizens have battled their way past Liverpool and Chelsea in the previous two rounds.
Nathan Jones is yet to make waves in the Premier League since taking the reins at basement club Southampton in early November, with his new side losing all four league matches under his tutelage and conceding 10 goals in the process.
However, the Welsh boss has had more success in grinding out results in the cup competitions, as the Saints have come from behind to beat Lincoln City and Crystal Palace by 2-1 scorelines in the EFL Cup and FA Cup respectively, beating the latter away from home on Saturday.
James Ward-Prowse has developed a reputation for scoring spectacular free kicks, but even he will admit that his equaliser at Selhurst Park was intended as a cross. Nevertheless, that strike helped the Saints grow into the game before Adam Armstrong robbed the dawdling Vicente Guaita and tapped what proved to be the winning goal into an empty net midway through the second half.
An FA Cup fourth-round tie against Championship outfit Blackpool awaits Southampton later this month, but they must first turn their focus back to the EFL Cup as they prepare for the daunting task of going toe-to-toe with Man City, a side that they have beaten only once in their last 15 meetings.
Prior to their fourth-round win over Lincoln, Southampton comfortably beat Cambridge United 3-0 in the first round before scraping past Sheffield Wednesday on penalties following a 1-1 draw.
The Saints head into Wednesday’s fixture having been eliminated from seven of their last eight EFL Cup quarter-final ties, although they were successful in their most recent last-eight contest, beating Arsenal 2-0 in 2017 before reaching the final where they lost out to Manchester United.
After ending 2022 in somewhat underwhelming fashion with a 1-1 draw at home to Everton, Man City kick-started the New Year with back-to-back victories over Chelsea in the space of four days.
A slender 1-0 away win in the Premier League last Thursday was shortly followed by a comprehensive 4-0 home triumph in the FA Cup third round on Sunday, with Pep Guardiola’s side able to show their clinical side while goal machine Erling Braut Haaland watched on as a substitute.
Riyad Mahrez netted a brace while Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden were also on the scoresheet to help the Citizens cruise past the West Londoners into the fourth round, where they will face either Oxford United or Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium later this month.
While chasing down the Gunners at the Premier League summit remains Guardiola’s primary target this season, further success in the EFL Cup will also be welcomed by City, who are bidding to lift the trophy for the seventh time in the last 10 years.
The Citizens have lost just two of their 29 EFL Cup fixtures under Guardiola, with both defeats suffered against rivals Man United. West Ham United are the only other team to have eliminated Guardiola’s side in the competition, beating the Citizens on penalties in the fourth round last season.
City have won each of their last eight EFL Cup quarter-final ties, including a 3-1 home win against Southampton in October 2019, although this win is their only success against the Saints in four attempts in the competition.
Southampton EFL Cup form:
Southampton form (all competitions):
Manchester City EFL Cup form:
Manchester City form (all competitions):
We say: Southampton 0-3 Manchester City
Man City will be regarded as strong favourites to progress to the EFL Cup semi-finals and they proved in last weekend’s win over Chelsea that they can cope without the presence of a number of star names.
Southampton will have been boosted by their victory at the weekend, but coming out on top against a clinical Citizens outfit will likely be a step too far for Jones and co.