As some of the top clubs in England battle for a Football League Cup trophy, the remaining matches will come down to the play of a few key players.
Sunderland put themselves in good position with a 2-1 win in the first leg of the semifinals against Manchester United. Meanwhile, Manchester City and West Ham United will battle in their own semifinal on Wednesday, Jan. 8.
Although time is running out for each competitor to make an impact on this tournament, these players should expect to play huge roles in the remaining semifinal and possibly final match at the Capital One Cup.
Edin Dzeko, Manchester City
With all of the offensive firepower on Manchester City's roster, Edin Dzeko has become something of a forgotten man. While he has four Premier League goals on the year, he only has started eight matches this season.
However, he has been excellent in the League Cup this season, as noted by the Twitter account Stat City:
Despite his inconsistency, Dzeko has as much talent as anyone on the roster as someone who can create opportunities for himself and others. His skill in the middle of the pitch can help City put goals onto the scoresheet and give West Ham United little chance of keeping up.
On the other hand, Manchester City is still without Sergio Aguero and others. Therefore, the club could be doomed from a poor performance from Dzeko.
Jussi Jaaskelainen, West Ham United
Although West Ham United have struggled for most of the season, goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen has been among the better performers.
In 18 matches, the 38-year-old veteran has eight clean sheets and is often under attack for the majority of the action. He usually is capable of coming through with big saves and rarely makes mistakes.
This will be important against the offensive juggernaut that is Manchester City. Even if they advance to the finals, things could remain tough if they play Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Manchester United.
Jaaskelainen will have to come through with some of his best performances of his career if he wants to keep up the impressive run through the Capital One Cup finals.
Javier Hernandez, Manchester United
In the first leg against Sunderland, Javier Hernandez barely stepped onto the pitch, coming in as a sub in the 87th minute. By this time, it was too late, as Sunderland was able to hold on for a one-goal victory.
However, you can expect Chicharito to play a bigger role in the final leg at home on Jan. 22.
Hernandez has not been able to get starts in Premier League matches, but he often finds a way to score when he does play. In two starts in the Capital One Cup, he has three goals. With United struggling to score, it will be important to get the Mexican star in the lineup.
If he does get this chance, Hernandez will show that he can get the ball into the back of the net. This will give his side an opportunity to comeback against Sunderland and advance to the finals.
Phil Bardsley, Sunderland
Even though Sunderland sit in last place in the EPL, the club has a chance to get a prestigious trophy at the League Cup. A lot of that is thanks to the strong play of Phil Bardsley.
The veteran defender was suspended by the team to start the year, but he has since turned things around to be one of their most important contributors. According to BBC Sport, captain John O'Shea recently said, "Phil is a player we need to keep hold of. He's been brilliant and really has become the heart and soul of the club now."
Bardsley played well in the recent win over Manchester United and already has two goals in EPL play, which sadly is only one off the team lead.
Still, he has the ability to lead Sunderland to a championship with just two more wins.
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