Leicester City vs. Manchester City: 6 Things We Learned
After a week in which Manchester City beat Bayern Munich away from home with a second-string side, hammered Arsenal 6-3 to move within three points of the league leaders and drew Barcelona in the last-16 of the Champions League, this evening they took on Leicester in the quarter-final of the Capital One Cup.
City won comfortably to take their place in the semi-finals, the draw for which will be made tomorrow evening. It will be their third League Cup semi-final appearance in the last five seasons.
A wonderful free-kick from Aleksandar Kolarov got City going, before a brace from Edin Dzeko sealed the win. A late Lloyd Dyer strike reduced the arrears, but City were comfortable 3-1 winners.
Here are six major talking points to emerge from City's trip to the King Power Stadium.
1. James Milner Is City's 12th Man
With City's first-choice midfield four of Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and David Silva in such fine form, starting chances for James Milner are at a premium. However, every time he is called upon, either as a substitute or, like tonight, in a match where Manuel Pellegrini rotates heavily, he is superb.
His starring role in the win over Bayern, when he had a hand in all three goals, was followed up by another excellent cameo against Arsenal. He was outstanding again tonight. Strong, brave, skillful and tenacious, he has one of the best engines at City, constantly running and working hard for the team.
He is very often looked down on by supporters of England who feel he should be nowhere near the squad, but it's clear to those who watch him regularly that he's a very valuable player.
He's City's Mr. Consistency.
2. Edin Dzeko Stakes His Claim
Edin Dzeko has had a difficult season. He started as Pellegrini's first-choice striker only to be usurped by Alvaro Negredo, who has been exceptional. In recent weeks, whenever Dzeko has been given a chance to shine, he's not really taken it. Tonight, however, he showed his ability.
Two expertly taken goals crowned a solid all-round performance from a player City need in good form. Competition for places is healthy at any club, and Negredo and Sergio Aguero need to feel pressure from Dzeko.
His first was a downward header at the far post, his second a quality first-time finish. Dzeko is a confidence player, and he can take a lot of it from this match.
3. City Have a Right-Back Crisis
Pablo Zabaleta left the field after just 12 minutes in this match with what looks like a hamstring injury. The extent of the damage is unknown, but it seems likely he could miss at least three weeks.
With Micah Richards also out after sustaining an injury in Munich, it leaves City without a recognised right-back for the remainder of the Christmas period.
One does wonder why he was risked tonight given he plays the majority of matches. Dedryck Boyata was his replacement, and although he isn't naturally a right-back, you feel City could have started him and still had more than enough to beat Leicester.
4. Pellegrini Taking League Cup Seriously
With City's Champions League involvement—and the rigorous league schedule at this time of year—Manuel Pellegrini could have been forgiven for taking the Capital One Cup lightly. Tonight's team selection, however, suggests otherwise.
Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Pablo Zabaleta, players who would be in City's first-choice XI, all started, demonstrating Pellegrini's commitment to winning the League Cup.
Indeed, after the match he said (via BBC Sport):
We had a very good first half, and then we had the possession and dominated the game until they scored.
It is an important competition, it is important to win every game you play in and to get to the final at Wembley would be wonderful for the supporters.
I think the League Cup is different to normal because we could have Tottenham or Manchester United also in the semi-final so that would be beautiful for the fans.
Don't expect City to ease off in the semi-finals.
5. Jack Rodwell Has Role to Play
Jack Rodwell's City career has been consistently hampered by injury. This season, he's made just two league appearances, hamstrings still preventing him from playing regularly.
Last season was much the same. Every time he got himself in a decent run of form, he would pull up injured, missing games and losing rhythm in the process. His performances against Chelsea and Norwich were examples of what he can do: box-to-box midfield play, with an excellent range of passing. City have a gem on their hands who they can't seem to get fit.
He returned to the starting line-up tonight and looked excellent. For his sake, let's hope this is the start of a period of full fitness for a very talented young man.
6. Aguero out for Up to Eight Weeks
The worst news to emerge from a City perspective was the prognosis for Aguero, who suffered an injury in the match against Arsenal on Saturday. Pellegrini has confirmed he could miss up to eight weeks—a huge blow to City during the congested Christmas period.
BREAKING Sergio Aguero could be out for up to eight weeks, Manuel Pellegrini has revealed. #MCFC— Manchester City News (@ManCityMEN) December 17, 2013
Aguero has scored 19 goals in 20 matches this season and is vital to City's title charge. They will be hoping the eight week estimate is cautious.