League Cup semifinal preview: Manchester City vs. Bristol City

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Manchester City looks for a berth in the first Cup final of the English calendar as they host Championship side Bristol City in the first leg of the EFL Cup semifinals at 2:45 p.m. ET from the Etihad.

It remains to be seen how seriously Pep Guardiola will take this match given recent injuries that have sapped his squad of its depth through the festive schedule. However, the Manchester City boss has suggested he will name a strong side, telling fans that trophies of any kind will satisfy his craving.

While Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden are unquestionably ruled out with long-term injuries for the hosts, the most interesting situation to watch will be that of Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian was stretchered off in an air cast on New Year’s Eve after a heavy challenge by Jason Puncheon, but made a miraculous recovery to start just two days later against Watford. That decision was questioned as de Bruyne was withdrawn after 79 minutes at the Etihad in obvious discomfort. It will be interesting to see if Guardiola again risks his Player of the Year candidate or if he gets a rest 12-day rest until their next Premier League match against Liverpool on Sunday.

Bristol City, meanwhile, has taken down four Premier League sides in their stunning EFL Cup run, knocking Watford, Stoke City, Crystal Palace, and Manchester United all out of the competition. They will be without young midfielder Callum O’Dowda who played the full 90 minutes in four of their five EFL Cup matches, but went down with a serious ankle injury in late November.

The visitors currently sit fourth in the Championship table, but have lost two league games in a row, a worrying sign after losing just one match since late October. They were blasted by Aston Villa on the road by a cringe-worthy 5-0 scoreline last time out. Nevertheless, they have thus far not been intimidated by Premier League opposition in the Cup, taking an attacking mentality to all their Cup matches to date.

What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola on fixture congestion: “We are going to try to win the game, take the best result possible, then go to Bristol away with the best result – that’s the only way I know. The important thing is to be involved in all competitions and we are there as well as other teams. Chelsea are in the same position, they’re in them all.”

Bristol City manager Lee Johnson on playing Man City: “The players have been exceptional so far,” said Bristol City boss Lee Johnson. The effort they’ve demonstrated to beat four Premier League teams en route has been phenomenal. Now they find themselves in the semi-finals of a major cup competition and facing the best team in the country right now. The concentration levels it will take to ensure we don’t get infiltrated in our back-line will be huge. In saying that, I do believe in the qualities in our squad and the challenge is to make sure we play our game.”