West Ham United vs. Manchester City: 6 Things We Learned
Their place in the Capital One Cup final was inevitable already, but Manchester City booked their date at Wembley with a 3-0 win at West Ham to seal a record 9-0 aggregate success.
Reuniting Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero ultimately proved key for boss Manuel Pellegrini, who used what was effectively a free game to partner up his preferred front two ahead of the tests to come in the months ahead.
Negredo headed home a Marcos Lopes cross to open the scoring less than three minutes in, with Aguero doubling the lead when he profited from poor home defending.
Spaniard Negredo then added a third following a one-two with his strike partner just before the hour mark.
Here are six lessons learned from Upton Park.
Sergio Aguero's Rest Will Only Make Him More Dangerous
This was Aguero's first start in the City team since the 6-3 win over Arsenal in mid-December, and he looked as though he'd never been away.
Immediately striking up his old partnership with Alvaro Negredo, the Argentinean was terrific from the outset at Upton Park, and the suggestion now has to be that his midseason break will have helped him.
Aguero's next six months are made up of City's various challenges and a World Cup, and his winter break will make him more potent in both.
Marcos Lopes Is Maturing Nicely
The weekend's FA Cup clash with Watford will hold fond memories for Marcos Lopes, who scored against the Hornets within seconds of coming on in the same competition last season.
He might well start this time, especially after delivering a smart 90-minute display here.
Perhaps the highlight was his assist for Negredo after just 157 seconds, and the young Portuguese should see a few more moments to savour in the months ahead.
The Aguero-Negredo Partnership Is Still City's Best
This was effectively a free game for City, but it is still one that Edin Dzeko will have been disappointed not to be involved in.
The Bosnian had to watch the formidable Aguero-Negredo partnership be reunited in East London, and as the pair scored three times between them, he must have an idea of what is coming.
Watford at home on Saturday offers hope of a start for Dzeko, but he must now fear a more frequent return to the bench.
West Ham Can Find No Solace
Fair play to Sam Allardyce.
The West Ham manager named a strong team in front of a sub-15,000 crowd, no doubt viewing this game as a shot to nothing in a bid to generate confidence for his club's relegation battle. They found none.
They were easily beaten, and the injuries suffered by Mohamed Diame and Joe Cole suggest that the damage done could be severe.
We're a Game Away from Seeing a Potentially Pivotal Manchester Derby Final
Is it wrong to suggest that City fans will actually be cheering Manchester United on Wednesday?
Should United overcome their 2-1 first-leg deficit and beat Sunderland in their semi-final second leg at Old Trafford, then they'll set up an all-Manchester Capital One Cup final at Wembley, and Manuel Pellegrini and his men will surely be firm favourites to beat David Moyes' inconsistent outfit.
In fact, City will feel as though they could utilise the wide-open spaces of Wembley to win the final comfortably, perhaps delivering yet another blow to Moyes and United following the 4-1 league win earlier this season.
Stevan Jovetic Lives!
Montenegrin forward Stevan Jovetic was seen in a City shirt for the first time since the end of October when he appeared for the final 25 minutes at Upton Park.
His previous appearance was in this competition against Newcastle, whilst his only two City goals came against Wigan, also in the Capital One Cup.
This tournament holds a special place in the heart of a forward City paid £22 million for then, and he'll hope that by the time the final comes around, he's in good form and in a position to make a serious impact in the team.
Watford at home on Saturday offers him another chance, and he'll be eager to take it.