The Citizens enter the contest on the back of a last-gasp 2-1 win over Fulham in the Premier League, while the Blues suffered a 1-0 London derby defeat to Arsenal.
Being able to bring Erling Braut Haaland off the bench is a luxury that Pep Guardiola is not taking for granted, but the Norwegian talisman admitted that taking the game-winning penalty against Fulham ranks the highest in the most nerve-wracking moments of his life.
Despite opening the scoring through Julian Alvarez, Man City were pegged back as Joao Cancelo was shown a straight red card for a last-man foul on Harry Wilson. Andreas Pereira stepped up to score the resulting penalty, but it was then Haaland’s turn from 12 yards after Kevin De Bruyne was adjudged to have been felled in the area.
Ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno so nearly did his old club a favour, but Haaland’s spot kick squirmed under his grasp to seal a narrow win for the champions, who had briefly gone to the top of the rankings before Arsenal responded with victory over Chelsea a day later.
Now diverting attention away from their battle for Premier League supremacy, the EFL Cup has been Man City’s bread and butter under Guardiola, but their streak of four consecutive triumphs in the tournament was brought to an end by West Ham United in a shock fourth-round exit last year.
However, the eight-time champions have never been knocked out in the third round under Guardiola – most recently suffering that fate in 2012-13 under Roberto Mancini – and winning each of their last 15 games at the Etihad in all competitions is a rather reassuring statistic for the home faithful.
It was nothing personal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but the ex-Arsenal captain’s words were soon mocked by a former teammate of his in Gabriel Magalhaes, who scored the only goal of the game as the Gunners deservedly beat a lacklustre Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea stood still as Bukayo Saka‘s 63rd-minute corner evaded everyone before being poked into the roof of the net by Gabriel, which saw Chelsea fall further behind their capital counterparts in the table as discontent grows towards Graham Potter early doors.
Finishing top of their Champions League group has been a silver lining amid the Blues’ dismal Premier League run, as Potter’s side have now failed to win any of their last four games in the top flight and have hardly been handed the easiest EFL Cup tie to try to reverse their fortunes.
Chelsea progressed all the way to the final of the EFL Cup last season before coming unstuck against Liverpool on penalties, and the five-time champions – who most recently won the crown in 2015 – have not gone out in the third round since the 2010-11 tournament.
Man City did the double over Chelsea by a pair of 1-0 scorelines in the 2021-22 Premier League season, and Wednesday’s game will mark the first EFL Cup meeting between the two clubs since Guardiola’s men overcame the Blues on spot kicks in the 2019 final.
Man City right-back Cancelo will serve his one-match suspension in the EFL Cup – with red cards carrying over to all domestic competitions – so Guardiola will welcome him back with open arms for the upcoming Premier League clash with Brentford.
Kyle Walker‘s absence leaves Guardiola in a bit of a tricky situation at right-back, but 17-year-old Rico Lewis is on hand to try to build on his Champions League goal over Sevilla and could be one of several changes for the hosts, who are also set to welcome Kalvin Phillips back to the squad from his shoulder problem as he pushes for a place in England’s World Cup squad.
Sergio Gomez, Cole Palmer, Riyad Mahrez and Stefan Ortega can also expect to earn starts here, and with Haaland also a slight doubt, it would not be a surprise to see Julian Alvarez hold his spot up top as his counterpart is given more time to fully recuperate. One attacker who will also be hoping to earn a look-in is 18-year-old Carlos Borges, who scored four for the Under-21s against Manchester United at the weekend.
Rotation can also be expected from Potter’s Chelsea, who remain without Wesley Fofana, Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Kepa Arrizabalaga and N’Golo Kante, while Carney Chukwuemeka is not expected back from a hamstring injury just yet either. Jorginho is also dealing with a foot problem and has emerged as a doubt.
Kepa’s injury means that Potter is facing a big decision in goal between Edouard Mendy and Marcus Bettinelli, but the former may still get the nod given the calibre of opposition, while Mateo Kovacic only made the bench against Arsenal as he manages his knee problem.
Should Potter decide against risking Kovacic from the first whistle, Denis Zakaria and Conor Gallagher can freshen up the midfield in any case, while Kalidou Koulibaly, Armando Broja and possibly even the out-of-favour Hakim Ziyech could return.
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ortega; Lewis, Dias, Laporte, Gomez; Palmer, Rodri, Foden; Mahrez, Alvarez, Grealish
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Azpilicueta, Chalobah, Koulibaly, Cucurella; Gallagher, Zakaria, Kovacic; Ziyech, Broja, Pulisic