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Carabao Cup final: Talking points

PENALTY PRIZE: The City players celebrate their spot-kick success

PENALTY PRIZE: The City players celebrate their spot-kick success

City face Arsenal in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday. Here are eight observations ahead of the eagerly-awaited clash...

1 The chosen XI

Walking out at Wembley… it’s the content of many a footballers’ dream – but who will receive the nod on Sunday afternoon?

Pep Guardiola has already confirmed Claudio Bravo is set to start between the sticks. Who will sport the famous sky blue in front of him?

The City boss revealed Gabriel Jesus is in contention, having been sidelined since New Year’s Eve with medial collateral ligament damage. Will he earn a recall to the starting XI? Or will Sergio Aguero be handed the chance to edge closer to another Club milestone of a double century?

On the subject of milestones, Fernandinho could make his 200th start for the Blues in all competitions.

Meanwhile, Raheem Sterling is doubtful with a hamstring injury and Fabian Delph is suspended, following his red card in the FA Cup clash at Wigan… So who will occupy the left-back and wing spots?

Think you know? Come Sunday, you can cast your predictions for the line-up, along with the result and scorers in the CityMatchday app.

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2 Gunning for them

Arsene Wenger rotated his squad for Thursday night’s Europa League visit of Ostersunds, handing rests to several of his key men ahead of Sunday’s game.

Striker Alexandre Lacazette is sidelined with a knee injury, while Mesut Ozil (illness) and Aaron Ramsey (groin) face late fitness tests, having missed out on the midweek encounter.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is cup-tied so Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be identified as the dangerman. David Ospina will play in goal in place of Petr Cech.

READ: John Cross’ expert view

3 Response required

Both sides suffered defeat in midweek – City at Wigan and Arsenal at home in the Europa League – and will be seeking an immediate reaction. What better time or place to achieve it?

Of course, the Gunners’ defeat proved less detrimental than City’s, as Wenger’s men had already gained a significant lead from their first leg tie in Sweden and progressed to the next round on aggregate, but they will be no less fired up to seek an immediate return to winning ways.

4 Lift off?

Guardiola is certainly no stranger to the pressure and excitement of cup finals.

This is his first with City, although he did lead the Blues at Wembley as City and Arsenal locked horns in last season’s FA Cup semi-final.

The Gunners emerged victorious that day, courtesy of an extra-time Alexis Sanchez strike.

PRESS CONFERENCE: Pep Guardiola addresses the media ahead of the game...

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5 VAR-City

City will experience a first taste of VAR (the video assistant referee), which will make its English cup final debut.

All eyes on the big screens, should a moment of controversy arise. Supporters will be informed with a graphic to be broadcast when a review call is under way.

Arsenal are already familiar with the system, as it was employed in their semi-final clashes with Chelsea.

Neil Swarbrick occupies the VAR role to advise referee Craig Pawson.

6 Numbers game

City have lifted the League Cup trophy on four occasions – 1970, 1976, 2014 and 2016 – while Arsenal have won it twice (in 1987 and 1993).

The two sides have met seven times in total in the competition. Of those meetings, the Blues have won just one, losing five and drawing the other.

While our record against the Gunners has improved in recent years, we have claimed victory in just two of our last ten encounters. However, that did include November’s 3-1 triumph last time out.

READ: League Cup stats

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7 Paying the penalty?

City's route to the final heralded plenty of drama. Since the third round victory at West Brom, the Blues have triumphed via two penalty shoot-outs – Bravo the hero – and a thrilling 5-3 aggregate win over Bristol City.

Should penalties be required once more, Bravo will take heart from his previous endeavours and draw inspiration from Willy Caballero’s heroics on the very same turf in the 2016 League Cup success.

8 You again!

City and Arsenal will do battle again on Thursday night in the rearranged Premier League clash at the Emirates Stadium.

Who will be out for revenge and who will boast the bragging rights? We’ll find out on Sunday evening…

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