Manchester United and Southampton contest the EFL Cup final at Wembley Stadium this Sunday as the first trophy of the domestic season in England is up for grabs.
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Jose Mourinho’s United go into the clash on a roll after losing just one game in their last 25 in all competitions, while pushing themselves back into the top four hunt and reaching both the quarterfinals of the FA Cup and the last 16 of the Europa League.
As for Southampton, Claude Puel‘s men are the undisputed underdogs but will fancy their chances of causing an upset after beating both Arsenal and Liverpool to make it to their first League Cup final since 1979 and just the second in their 132-year history.
Below is a look at how both teams could line up on Sunday, with some analysis on how it could play out.
—– De Gea —–
— Valencia — Bailly — Smalling — Blind —
—- Herrera —- Fellaini —-
—- Mata —- Pogba —- Rashford —-
—– Ibrahimovic —–
Subs: Romero, Young, Rojo, Jones, Martial, Lingard, Rooney
United have some injury concerns ahead of the final with both Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Michael Carrick limping off against Saint-Etienne on Wednesday in the Europa League. Mourinho believes they’re big doubts to play at Wembley. That means one of Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial will come in for Mkhitaryan and it will probably be Rashford who has looked increasingly dangerous in recent weeks.
The back four picks itself and with Carrick likely out, you’d expected Ander Herrera to be joined by Marouane Fellaini in midfield. The only other question is whether or not Wayne Rooney will be fit enough to play some part after spending over three weeks on the sidelines. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will lead the line and his partnership with Paul Pogba will test Southampton’s makeshift defense severely.
—– Forster —–
— Cedric — Stephens — Yoshida — Bertrand —
—- Romeu —- Davis —-
—- Redmond —- Tadic —- Ward-Prowse —-
—– Gabbiadini —–
Subs: Hassen, McQueen, Caceres, Hojbjerg, Rodriguez, Sims, Long
Saints have a few key players missing for this clash and their biggest concern will be in central defense. After selling Jose Fonte in January, they then lost Virgil Van Dijk through injury. That forced Puel to bring in Martin Caceres on a short-term deal but the former Barcelona and Juventus defender hasn’t played in over a year so academy product Jack Stephens will likely start alongside Maya Yoshida. Can they shackle Ibrahimovic? In midfield Oriol Romeu has been incredible in the holding role and he will go head-to-head with Pogba, while alongside him club captain Steven Davis will provide a good base to snuff out United’s attack.
James Ward-Prowse could get the nod over Shane Long and Jay Rodriguez out wide due to his set-piece deliveries, while Dusan Tadic in-behind Manolo Gabbiadini will be Saints’ biggest attacking threat. They were struggling for goals and creativity with Charlie Austin out injured, plus Sofiane Boufal missing in recent weeks, but Gabbiadini has scored three in his first two games for Saints since arriving in January from Napoli.