Manchester City are into their first League Cup final since 1976 after completing a 9-0 aggregate victory over West Ham—the biggest semi-final winning margin in the competition's 54-year history. The 3-0 win stretches City's unbeaten run to 18 matches, just four short of the 22-game club record which has stood for 67 years.
After the 6-0 first leg victory, many expected Manuel Pellegrini to select a side consisting of youngsters and fringe players, but he opted for a strong starting XI, further proof of his determination to win his first major trophy as a manager in Europe.
The one young player offered a rare chance to shine was 18-year-old Marcos Lopes, making just his second senior start for the club, and he played superbly all evening.
He has outstanding balance, quick feet and a wonderful understanding of the game that could see him become a star of this City side.
He had a hand in both first-half goals—the first an excellent cross from the left that landed on the head of Alvaro Negredo in the box, and the second a neat through ball to Sergio Aguero after a weaving run. It was Aguero's third in three appearances since his return from a calf injury.
Any lingering hopes of a West Ham revival were dashed after 24 minutes. This is Pellegrini’s City: ruthless and efficient.
Negredo scored his second and City's third on the hour mark with a lovely deft finish to put the tie beyond doubt, leaving City's travelling support to sing the night away.
Aguero and Jovetic have got work to do together. ☺☺☺ pic.twitter.com/AnwMyN1tFa— City Watch (@City_Watch) January 21, 2014
And there were a number of excellent performances for them to enjoy. Fernandinho continues to make a mockery of the fact that he is consistently overlooked by the Brazil national side, with his energy, tackling and range of passing marking him out as one of the best midfielders in England. It's laughable that his last cap came two years ago.
And a special mention must go to Joleon Lescott, a player who could well leave in January if this report from Jamie Jackson in the Guardian is to be believed. He was oustanding in this game—arguably the Man of the Match—and, if he does leave, will go with the very best wishes of the City fans who appreciate the role he has played in their recent success.
Even Stevan Jovetic managed an appearance, brought on the second-half for his first game since he was injured against Newcastle in October.
City are now set for their sixth trip to Wembley in three seasons in March, where they could meet rivals Manchester United in the final. It falls on the 40th anniversary of City's only loss in a League Cup final—a 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers—and they'll be desperately hoping that it doesn't prove to be a bad omen.
If City can bring home the trophy, it will be a fitting reward for the breathtaking football they've played under Pellegrini thus far.
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.