Written By Andy Jones (@TheRamblingHam)
Wembley will host 8000 fans on Sunday as Tottenham Hotspurs take on serial winners Manchester City in the League Cup final – almost two months later than scheduled.
The North London club unceremoniously pushed Jose Mourinho out the back door this week, just 6-days prior to the club’s first final since losing to Liverpool in the Champions League in 2019.
The Portugese manager will feel he deserved a chance to win the club’s first trophy in 13 years but the powers that be saw fit to move the ‘Special One’ on.
Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy quickly appointed from within, and new man Ryan Mason will seek to be the youngest manager to win the trophy in just his second game in charge of the North London club.
The 29-year-old Englishman was forced to retire from playing early after fracturing his skull in a Premier League tie with Chelsea during his inaugural season with new club Hull in 2017.
The new Tottenham boss worked his way through the Spurs academy and has been at the club for almost 20 years, and fans will be looking to their former midfielder to do the impossible and defeat Pep Guardiola and co under the famous arches.
13 years without a trophy
Spurs last won a piece of silverware in 2008, with Jonathan Woodgate, now in charge of Championship side Bournemouth, scoring the winning goal in that League Cup success. The former defensive general also picked up the man of the match award to boot, and he believes his old club “really stand a chance” ahead of this weekend’s final.
He added: “You can never rule a team with Spurs’ quality out.”
The former Tottenham defender was speaking prior to the Cherries 4-1 victory over Millwall and had only good things to say about Mason’s appointment following Mouriniho’s sacking.
“He must be well thought of at the football club to give him the race to the end of the season,” revealed the 2008 League Cup Man of the Match.
“So it’s fair play to Ryan. I know he was unfortunate to finish his career early through an horrendous injury but now he is in coaching, he’s got an incredible opportunity.”
The current Bournemouth boss also went on to say he was “over the moon” for new Spurs’ interim Head Coach and that he is someone the fans will be able to relate to based on his 20 year association with the club.
Mason became the youngest Premier League manager on Thursday night as his new side beat strugglers Southampton 2-1 and Woodgate was all too happy to give his former teammate some advice.
“I think it’s important that you stick to your beliefs, get the players on side and have conversations with them – that’s key,” said the ex-Real Madrid ace.
“Also getting in staff you can work with, which is also really important. I am sure he will do that,” he added.
Spurs came up against a strong Chelsea side last time they brought silverware back to North London and Woodgate went on to reveal how much that victory meant to him and the club.
“Yeah, [it was] huge for us because not many of us had won a trophy at that time and to beat a Chelsea team which was firing on all cylinders, a full strength Chelsea team, was good,” he said.
“It’s part of the club’s history now – of being there and winning that last trophy for them.
“I’m sure sooner or later they’re gonna win a trophy but to give the Spurs fans that day of beating Chelsea, in that cup final was something special for them and really something special for me.”
Harry Kane will be looking to finally put a winners medal around his neck as well. The England captain looks set to play despite limping off in the 2-2 draw with Everton a week ago.
However, Woodgate believes Spurs will struggle to keep hold of their talisman for much longer as the club will need “more investment” to keep him at the club.
He added: “He’s been unbelievable this season and scored so many goals and involved as a player by making so many assists.”
“He’s an incredible talent so I would say Spurs need to invest to try and keep Harry Kane at the club.”
Mason will also be looking at on-loan Real Madrid star Gareth Bale on Sunday afternoon. The Welshman scored in the 2-1 victory over Southampton and now Mourinho has left fans will be hopeful their number 9 can find the same kind of form that made him a legend at the club.
Bale has been on the peripheries this season at Spurs and England midfielder Dele Alli has also seen his chances limited at The Tottenham Stadium. The Spurs faithful will be looking for Mason to get both players firing come Sunday afternoon and alongside the in-form Heung-Min Son and captain Kane their chances of success could hinge on the quartet.
Four in a row
Guardiola’s Man City will be rueing their FA Cup semi final defeat to Chelsea last weekend when the chance to complete an audacious quadruple came crashing down. A lacklustre performance against the Blues was shaken off in midweek when the Citizens came fighting back after falling behind to Aston Villa.
Kevin De Bruyne pulled up in that semi final defeat and will likely miss the clubs most important games over the next few weeks. The Belgian playmaker is a stalwart in the City side and his absence will be missed at Wembley.
On top of an injured KDB, Raheem Sterling has looked a shadow of his former self while all time top scorer Sergio Aguero has been dogged with injuries and has only scored once in nine Premier League appearances this season.
Despite the concerns of several key players, Guardiola has found solutions. The emergence of Phil Foden in a role of the left has been a joy to watch. The England international was in scintillating form against Dortmund as City progressed to the Champions League semi finals and he backed that up with another fine performance against Villa, grabbing himself a goal to reward his efforts.
Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan have also stepped up to the plate this year, the former has been in inspiring form throughout the campaign weaving his trickery and skill on the right flank while Gundogan has been clinical in front of goal – netting 16 times in all competitions.
Another positive is City’s defence. 17 clean-sheets in the Premier League is one of the reasons the Manchester club will most likely claim another Premier League title, and the arrival of the Portuguese has also seen his compatriot Joao Cancelo flourish at full-back, but England’s John Stones will miss the final after seeing red at Villa Park.
Predicted Line Ups
Tottenham: Lloris; Reguillon, Aurier, Dier, Alderweirald; Winks, Hojbjerg; Bale, Ndombele, Son; Kane (4-2-3-1)
Man City: Ederson; Zinchenko, Cancelo, Dias, Laporte; Rodri, Gundogan, Silva; Mahrez, Foden, Jesus (4-3-3)