EFL Cup

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Vardy injury ‘not as serious as first thought,’ says Rodgers

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Everyone at Leicester City is breathing a huge sigh of relief after receiving the timetable for the injury suffered by star striker Jamie Vardy on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Manager Brendan Rodgers confirmed after the game that it wasn’t a hamstring injury, as originally feared, but rather a “twinge in his glute.” That was the first bit of “good news,” according to Rodgers.

Now comes the really good stuff for the Foxes: Vardy will be unavailable for Saturday’s FA Cup fourth round clash with EFL Championship side Brentford, but he could return to action for the second leg of the EFL Cup semifinals against Aston Villa on Tuesday — quotes from Sky Sports:

“He’s not available for the weekend and there will be a question mark for Tuesday, although it’s certainly not as serious as we first thought.

“It’s not his hamstring, it’s a glute, so we’re hopeful for Tuesday, but there’s a little bit of work to do. He’ll get some work in with the medical team. He’ll stay with them for the weekend.

“He’s much better than directly after the game, when he was tight and sore and struggling to move. But today he was much better.”

Throw in the fact that Leicester currently sit third in the Premier League and Champions League qualification is looking highly likely for next season (they hold a 14-point lead on fifth-place Manchester United with 14 games left to play), and they have truly dodged a bullet on this one.

League Cup: Man City rolls past Man United

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There’s no doubt anymore as to which color Manchester is these days.

Manchester City extended its bragging rights over their now not so noisy neighbors, with a 3-1 first leg win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Tuesday in the League Cup semifinals. Bernardo Silva opened the scoring early with a wicked strike from outside the box and it was all up from there for the visitors. Man United showed some brief sparks in the second half, but despite Marcus Rashford’s goal, couldn’t find enough quality to get closer to Man City.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The action moves to the Etihad Stadium for the second leg on January 29, though Man United will have a two-goal deficit to dig out of.

Manchester City mananger Pep Guardiola made the decision not to play a recognizable striker, leaving both Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero out of the starting lineup. And yet, it quickly paid dividends as Man United’s backline of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, and Brandon Williams struggled to stay with players like Raheem Sterling and Silva.

Indeed, in the 17th minute, it was Silva who found a pocket of space off a short pass from Kevin De Bruyne and unleashed a blast from 28 yards out that had eyes for the upper corner. As good as the strike was, it was also noticeable that Silva easily took the ball past Fred while Jones didn’t jump forward to cover the space, leaving Silva with plenty of room to uncork the shot.

The goal was just what Man City was expecting and afterwards it confidently pinged the ball around midfield and into Man United’s defensive third of the field, threatening to score again. In the 33rd minute, Man City did just that, as Silva found Riyad Mahrez open in the box before Mahrez rounded de Gea and scored into an empty net to put his side up 2-0.

Man City made it 3-0 five minutes later as again Silva was the architect. He played Mahrez into space in the middle before the ball made its way out left to de Bruyne. His shot on goal was parried by de Gea but it went right into the body of Andreas Pereira, which ricocheted into the goal. Even before firing, de Bruyne’s switch to the left sent Jones flying, adding to his rough night.

After being played off the park in the first half, there was only one way to go in the second half for Man United, and it started to get a few minutes of possession on the ball at a time.

After Man City could have made it 4-0 through Mahrez, Rashford pulled one back for the hosts. In the 70th minute after a turnover, Mason Greenwood played a great pass into the run of Rashford, who lashed a strike past Claudio Bravo to make it 3-1.

This story will be updated. 

Preview: Man Utd v. Man City — EFL Cup semis, leg 1

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revealed that a number of key Manchester United figures are either hobbled or unwell ahead of Tuesday’s EFL Cup semifinal clash with Manchester City (3 p.m. ET) at Old Trafford, lamenting the fact their first leg wasn’t the one to fall on Wednesday instead.

[ MORE: Lingard to be represented by controversial agent Raiola ]

According to Solskjaer, the last two days were meant for a few players — Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw — to spend “a night or two in their own beds” accompanied by a combination of homemade remedies and prescription cures to recover from the illness which kept each of them out of Saturday’s FA Cup draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers. No such luck, though, as Solskjaer has admitted that “some of them are still not ready.”

“We’re going to give them as much time as we can, that’s the most honest answer I can give you. If there was a game today, I’m not sure they could play at their best.

“Another 36 hours might be a big change.”

Add the unwell stars to the list of injured players who’ll miss Tuesday’s game — Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay and Eric Bailly — and what was already going to be an uphill battle for the Red Devils becomes that much steeper.

[ MORE: Captain Aubameyang says transfer rumors are “made up” ]

Pep Guardiola, who’s got his own selection headaches with Aymeric Laporte (knee) and perhaps Nicolas Otamendi (illness) still unavailable, is looking at Tuesday’s Cup derby as the biggest game remaining this season, not only because it’s against Man United, but because it’s Man City’s fastest route to a trophy. With the Premier League title seemingly gone to Liverpool already (the Reds lead City by 14 with 17 games left to play), Guardiola is focused on picking up any and every other trophy available to his squad between now and the end of May.

Despite the fact they’ll likely relinquish the PL title after a two-year reign, City could still finish the 2019-20 season with three trophies. Still, the rivalry with United remains front and center in his mind, as he made a bold proclamation regarding his feelings for the other side of Manchester — quotes from the Guardian:

“After training City, I will never train them. I would not train [Real] Madrid [after Barcelona]. I’d be in the Maldives if I don’t have any offers. Maybe not the Maldives, because it doesn’t have any golf courses.”

The two sides have already met once this season, with United besting City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium, which will host the second leg on Jan. 29, back in early December.

League Cup preview: Liverpool reserves look to advance

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The League Cup quarterfinals arrive this week with one of the most bizarre circumstances surrounding the round’s first match.

Liverpool, or a Liverpool XI, will travel to Aston Villa on Tuesday. However, this Liverpool team will be devoid of stars like Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, since the main squad is at the 2019 Club World Cup in Qatar. The Liverpool first team plays on Wednesday against CONCACAF champion Monterrey at the Club World Cup.

[READ: Club World Cup semifinal preview]

Instead, we’ll get to see the next generation of Liverpool stars along with a possible sprinkling of veterans, such as Dejan Lovren. England youth international Rhian Brewster is a game-time decision after he undergoes a fitness test, but the majority of this side will come from Liverpool’s U-23s.

While Liverpool is forced into a reserve side, it is huge test against an Aston Villa side that will be desperate for a win. Coming up from the Championship, it will be a huge success for Aston Villa if it can even make the League Cup final.

Elsewhere, Duncan Ferguson reportedly takes on his final game in charge of Everton as it hosts high-flying Leicester City. Jamie Vardy had his eight-game goalscoring streak snapped over the weeked, so should he play, you can expect him to find the scoresheet again. Meanwhile, for Everton, it could be a first match for their new coach – Carlo Ancelotti? – to watch from the stands.

The two Manchester clubs have little to gain and all to lose as they take on lower-league clubs at this stage of the competition.

Manchester United hosts League Two Colchester United, while Manchester City travels to League One’s Oxford United.

Klopp to take first team to Club World Cup, leave youth for EFL Cup

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Jurgen Klopp has chosen his strongest possible Liverpool squad to take to the Club World Cup later this month, leaving a reserve- and youth-laden team behind to compete in the EFL Cup during the same period.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Liverpool will head to Doha, Qatar, for the Club World Cup, where they’ll play their semifinal fixture against one of Monterrey (Mexico), Al-Saad (Qatar) or Hienghene Sport (New Caledonia) on Dec. 18. The day prior, on Dec. 17, the Reds will also play away to Aston Villa in the quarterfinals of the League Cup. With the club’s star-studded first team in Qatar, progression to the semifinals of the League Cup will be down to a team full of teenage prospects.

Only defender Joel Matip and midfielder Fabinho, both of whom are currently injured and unavailable, were left out of the Club World Cup squad.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Players suffering from illness or injury prior to Liverpool’s first Club World Cup game can be replaced in the squad up to 24 hours before kickoff.

Liverpool’s Club World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Adrian, Andy Lonergan

Defenders: Virgil Van Dijk, Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez, Andrew Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold

Midfielders: Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Neco Williams

Forwards: Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Xherdan Shaqiri, Rhian Brewster, Divock Origi