AP

LIVE, League Cup semifinal: Man City v. Burton Albion

1 Comment

Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City host third-tier Burton Albion in the first leg of their League Cup semifinal Wednesday (kick off, 2:45 p.m. ET), with Pep Guardiola‘s men expected to put one foot in the final at Wembley on February 24.

They are of course also the reigning League Cup champs, and with either Chelsea or Tottenham awaiting the winner in the final, many expect a classic encounter with City involved.

[ LIVE: League Cup semifinal ]

City are the heavy favorites against Burton, who are managed by Nigel Clough and have caused plenty of upsets on their way to the final four of this competition for the first time in their history. The Brewers have beaten Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and Burnley, but there’s no doubting their underdog status in this one. They will be hoping the tie is still somewhat in the balance when they host the second leg at their tiny Pirelli Stadium in two weeks time.

Click the link above to follow the action from the Etihad Stadium, while we wrap up the semifinal action right here at Pro Soccer Talk.

LINEUPS

League Cup semi preview: Just how stunning an upset?

Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
Leave a comment

We saw what Manchester City’s second unit is capable of doing to a Championship side when Pep Guardiola‘s men deconstructed Rotherham United to the tune of 7-0 in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Spurs 1-0 Chelsea ]

So what can City do to a mid-table side from League One? And how unthinkable an upset is a Burton Albion victory, especially since manager Nigel Clough was “staggered” by reaching the semi via a defeat of Middlesbrough?

Well, let’s think on it.

Burton Albion’s only defeat of a Premier League team this season is a 2-1 take down of visiting Burnley, and all five of their League Cup wins have come by single goals.

And while City may have lost to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup last season, that was not in a round on the precipice of a final.

Clough, no stranger to the upper reaches of competition, puts its plainly. From The Telegraph:

“It’s almost a bye to the final for City. I don’t think we can go into it thinking we’ve got a fighting chance of winning it,” he says, deadly serious. “If we beat them over two legs, it will be the biggest shock of all time. I don’t know what Pep’s thinking will be but I would imagine it will be to make the second leg irrelevant. But we’ve got to try and do the opposite to that and try to retain a glimmer of hope.”

What is Pep thinking, then (Let’s keep up the thinking theme)?

“Winning is important,” he said. “The Carabao Cup is the more local competition. Everybody is happy to win and nobody is sad if they go out in the competition. We are here in the semi-final and we want to win.”

Burton beating Man City over two legs would be on par with Leicester City winning the Premier League. Is that too bold to say?

Chelsea boss Sarri plenty upset with VAR decision for Spurs

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
Leave a comment

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri doesn’t have a problem with Video Assistant Referee, but he sure thinks it wasn’t used well in Tuesday’s League Cup semifinal between his Blues and the host Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium.

[ RECAP: Spurs 1-0 Chelsea ]

VAR awarded a penalty to Harry Kane about 90 seconds after the Spurs striker was ruled offside moments after Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga chopped him down in the box.

Sarri understands the use of technology, but thinks the people making the decision got it wrong.

[ MORE: Spurs react to VAR-infused win ]

Apparently, they should’ve asked for the Chelsea camera! From the BBC:

“A few minutes ago I watched the video from our camera. It was offside,” Sarri said. “Our camera was in line with Harry Kane. Offside with the head, the knee. Offside. It was really important the linesman carried on running, he had a big impact on our defenders. … I don’t think English referees are able to use the system.”

Sarri was not disappointed in his team’s performance, as just the finishing touch was missing at Wembley Stadium.

Chelsea out-attempted Spurs 17-6, and deserved better than a 1-0 deficit.

“We played into the opposition box 70 balls,” he said. “Tottenham had 10 balls into our box. We had 17 or 18 shots, nine on target. I think we played very well. In this moment it is not easy to score but I am happy with my players.”

Spurs react to VAR helping award Kane decisive League Cup penalty

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Leave a comment

Harry Kane has received the benefit of video in other competitions, but this time Video Assistant Referee directly helped his club, Tottenham Hotspur, take a 1-0 lead over Chelsea after 90 minutes of their League Cup semifinal.

Kane was initially ruled offside when he was chopped down in the box by Blues goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

[ RECAP: Spurs 1-0 Chelsea ]

VAR came to the rescue, though, and Kane has no doubts about the call made before he converted his penalty kick to make it 1-0.

“I played to the whistle and nicked it round the keeper,” Kane said. “It was a clear penalty. VAR is there for a reason and they got it right.”

Believe it or not, his manager wasn’t wild about it. Not because it isn’t right to implement VAR, rather concerned what could happen if it isn’t running smoothly when it comes to the Premier League.

Here’s the boss in question, Spurs’ Mauricio Pochettino:

“I don’t like the VAR. Today we get the benefit of it but after watching the World Cup and another league like La Liga I see that nobody is happy from day one that they started to use it. To get the benefit is nice but I am unhappy to win the game like this. I prefer the technology but in a different way. Being clear: I am pro technology because you cannot stop evolution. But we are waiting so long, it is not clear what are the rules.

“We all have to agree, the players, the coaching staff, I watch every week La Liga and nobody is happy, the big clubs and the small clubs. If you are playing to win the title or to stay up nobody is happy. … We have six months to improve the system and there is a lot of work to do.”

If he doesn’t like it, just imagine what Maurizio Sarri is going to say about it. Also, perhaps it’s worth noting that rumored Real Madrid target Pochettino is watching a lot of Spanish football. Just perhaps, because he did talk about a possible 20-year reign in North London earlier this week.

Kane said Chelsea had a point to prove in its latest visit to Wembley Stadium to meet his Tottenham Hotspur, and Danny Rose agreed with his striker.

Rose praised the home side for digging in against a team which was inspired by a 3-1 loss in the same venue during league play, and thinks the second leg sets up nicely for Spurs.

“There is going to be a bit more pressure on them to come out and attack us now, but we are one of the best counter-attacking teams in the league so we are looking forward to it,” Rose said. “We won’t go there and try to protect the lead, we will play our game.”

Kane’s VAR penalty gives Spurs first leg lead over Chelsea

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Leave a comment
  • VAR awards Kane penalty
  • Chelsea pours it on in second half
  • Blues out shoot Spurs 17-6
  • Backup GK Gazzaniga key for Spurs against lively Hazard

Video Assistant Referee played a huge role in the League Cup semifinal first leg between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday.

Harry Kane converted a penalty awarded via VAR as Spurs grabbed a 1-0 lead in match that otherwise favored the Blues.

The margin was razor-thin, and Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri thinks VAR got it wrong.

[ READ: PL Player Power Rankings ]

The second leg is Jan. 24 at Stamford Bridge. The other semifinal between Manchester City and Burton Albion begins Wednesday at the Etihad Stadium.

Kane was taken down in the box by Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, but the penalty was not awarded as the Spurs man judged to be offside.

The video reviewed the call, though, and found that Kane was onside. The English captain didn’t miss from the spot, and Spurs led 1-0.

Eden Hazard was particularly vivid for Chelsea, though the Blues star could not find the back of the goal and his teammates struggled to put the finishing touch on his playmaking.

Youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi, the Bayern Munich target, played 79 minutes in the match.