Manuel Pellegrini Must Not Underestimate Importance of Capital One Cup Success

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Manuel Pellegrini Must Not Underestimate Importance of Capital One Cup Success
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After the weekend's draw away at Blackburn in the FA Cup third round, Manchester City remain in four competitions. Second in the league just one point behind leaders Arsenal, and with a last 16 Champions League tie with Barcelona to look forward to, they should now be able to see off Blackburn at the Etihad and take their place in Round 4 of the cup.

However, Manuel Pellegrini's first opportunity to win a piece if silverware with City comes in the form if the Capital One Cup. They face West Ham in the semi-final first leg at home this week, with a potential Wembley final against rivals Manchester United awaiting them if they can beat the Hammers over two matches.

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The importance of winning the League Cup cannot be underestimated. It provides an opportunity for City to taste success again after a barren campaign under Roberto Mancini last season, and it's also a chance for Pellegrini to win his first piece of silverware since he guided Villarreal to the Intertoto Cup 10 years ago.

After their FA Cup win in 2011 and Premier League title of 2012, City endured a fairly miserable season in 2013, surrendering the league with a whimper, and losing to Wigan at Wembley in the FA Cup final. Returning to winning ways as quickly as possible would be send a message to their rivals that this season will be different to last.

Jose Mourinho's first major trophy during his first spell in charge of Chelsea was the 2005 League Cup, and that proved to be a springboard for further success. Two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a second League Cup followed in a glorious period for the club, and Pellegrini will be hoping the competition can provide his new-look City side with a similar boost.

Some see the League Cup as a distraction, but when you reach the last four of a competition, the trophy seems tantalisingly close and its importance increases. There's no doubt that Pellegrini and his team will be focused on winning the trophy.

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Of course, the reason most clubs see England's secondary knock-out competition as an inconvenience is because their squads aren't strong enough to compete on multiple fronts. They have to prioritise their league campaigns, and opt instead to field a weakened side in League Cup games.

City have no such problem. Their second-string side is better than many Premier League first-teams, with Pellegrini having rotated heavily in the different competitions this season with success.

The most striking example was their 3-2 win over Bayern Munich in the Allianz, where City were without the likes of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero. City performed brilliantly in that match after a suspect start, and gave one their finest showings if the season against arguably the best club side in the world.

Pellegrini will no doubt rotate his squad again for the first leg against West Ham, particularly with an important league match away Newcastle to come on Sunday, but the message to whatever team he picks will be clear: City want to win this season's League Cup.

Capital One Cup semi-final

First Leg - Jan. 8: Manchester City vs. West Ham

Second Leg - Jan. 21: West Ham vs. Manchester City

Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.

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