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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Pep Guardiola's treble-hunting Manchester City favourites against Arsenal: League Cup final points to ponder

Here is a look at some of the major narratives surrounding the heavyweight clash

Pep Guardiola, centre, will be forced to focus on the treble, and no longer the quadruple. Andrew Yates / Reuters
Pep Guardiola, centre, will be forced to focus on the treble, and no longer the quadruple. Andrew Yates / Reuters

Arsenal and Manchester City go head to head at Wembley on Sunday as they compete for the League Cup.

The season's first piece of major silverware is up for grabs and lifting the trophy would be equally as important for City manager Pep Guardiola as it could prove for his counterpart Arsene Wenger.

Three outta four ain't bad

Manchester City's hunt for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies ended in spectacular style as they were dumped out of the FA Cup by League One Wigan on Monday.

There are still three trophies up for grabs for Guardiola's side, who are heavy favourites to claim the Premier League crown and remain in the hunt for their first Uefa Champions League trophy having thrashed Basel in their opening last-16 leg last week.

Victory against Arsenal would not only give Guardiola his first trophy in England but also set City on the right path to win a major trophy haul in what could become a silverware-laden campaign.

Arsene Wenger has yet to win the League Cup. Peter Cziborra / Reuters
Arsene Wenger has yet to win the League Cup. Peter Cziborra / Reuters

Wenger's domestic bliss

While City chase all of the major trophies this season, Wenger is looking to complete his own personal haul of domestic silverware. The Frenchman has won the Premier League three times and the FA Cup a record seven times but he has yet to win the League Cup, a tournament he often uses to blood his youngsters.

Defeats in the finals of 2007 and 2011, to Chelsea and Birmingham City respectively, is the closest Wenger has come to getting his hands on a League Cup winners' medal and he may not have many more chances after this one.

Manchester United are the reigning League Cup champions. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo
Manchester United are the reigning League Cup champions. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo

Big clubs up for the cup

The League Cup, in its many guises, has been seen as a peripheral trophy to teams from the top of the Premier League to the lower levels of the game.

With clubs focusing on their league aims – success or survival – this competition is often used to rotate squads and give vital minutes to fringe players. But, with the top six now all vying for trophies, this one has become more sought-after with five of the last six winners coming from the upper echelons of the Premier League, that run will continue this year.

Manchester City's Yaya Toure looks dejected after their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal. Carl Recine / Reuters
Manchester City's Yaya Toure looks dejected after their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal. Carl Recine / Reuters

Wembley payback for City

Whilst Guardiola's revolution at the Etihad Stadium could yield as many as four trophies, his first season ended empty-handed.

Arsenal played a major part in that as they upset the odds to beat City in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley before going on to prevent Chelsea winning the double. Now the pair meet again, with Guardiola's side no doubt the favourites once more, but with Arsenal fans hoping to ruin another afternoon under the arch for City supporters.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has played only twice since joining from Borussia Dortmund on transfer deadline day. Peter Cziborra / Reuters
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has played only twice since joining from Borussia Dortmund on transfer deadline day. Peter Cziborra / Reuters

Early success for Aubameyang

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has played only twice since joining from Borussia Dortmund on transfer deadline day.

Arsenal's club-record signing shone on his debut against Everton but was quiet in defeat to Tottenham, at Wembley, in his last outing.

The Gabon international can mark only his third appearance with silverware and should be fit and raring to go having been ineligible for Arsenal's Europa League tie with Ostersund.

If Aubameyang can find the sort of form which saw Arsenal splash the cash, he could enjoy a memorable start to his life in England.