Manchester City will start the defence of their Carabao Cup title when they travel to The Kassam Stadium to take on Oxford United on Tuesday night

The Carabao Cup moves into the third round, as the bigwigs of English football make their entrance into the competition. On Tuesday, current title holders Manchester City will begin their campaign in the League Cup when they lock horns with League One outfit Oxford United at The Kassam Stadium.

Oxford are struggling at the start of the season, having managed to win just one of their nine league games thus far. Suffice to say, Karl Robinson’s men find themselves in the relegation zone, with just five points on the board, although they will take heart from their convincing 3-0 win over Newport County in the second round.

Manchester City, on the other hand, boast a strong domestic record, winning five of their first six games in what has been an unbeaten start to the league campaign. The only blemish came in the form of a 2-1 loss to Lyon in Matchday 1 of the UEFA Champions League. Pep Guardiola’s men though, will be confident of mounting a successful title defence in the Carabao Cup.

The last match-up between the two sides took place at Maine Road in 1998, with Oxford United beating Manchester City 2-0 in the second tier of English football. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Carabao Cup encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Oxford United

Can Karl Robinson & co. spring a surprise? (Photo courtesy - Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Can Karl Robinson & co. spring a surprise? (Photo courtesy – Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Results are not the only thing bothering Karl Robinson, as he has a huge selection headache to deal with ahead of the visit of Manchester City, and not of the good kind. The Oxford United boss has as many six first-team players unavailable for Tuesday’s Carabao Cup clash, leaving him down to the bare bones as far as personnel is concerned.

The likes of Marcus Browne, Fabio Lopes, Rob Hall, Simon Eastwood, Samir Carruthers and Jamie Mackie are all on the treatment table due to various injuries. As a result, there’s a possibility that Karl Robinson could name just six substitutes on the Oxford United bench.

One area of the pitch where there aren’t any complaints is defence, where Robinson should name his strongest unit to delay the inevitable. The full-backs will likely be Cameron Norman and Luke Garbutt, with the latter possibly looking at this outing to impress those at parent club Everton.

At the heart of the Oxford defence, Curtis Nelson and John Mousinho should get the nod, with the back-four providing cover to Jonathan Mitchell. In midfield, Cameron Brannagan should return to the side after missing out against Walsall due to recovery from a head injury. The former Liverpool man is likely to replace Jamie Hanson, who should start in case Brannagan is rested again.

Up ahead in attack, Gavin Whyte and Ricky Holmes will be the danger men with the exploits on either flank, while James Henry should play just off Sam Smith, who will lead the line for Oxford.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Mitchell; Norman, Nelson, Mousinho, Garbutt; Brannagan, Baptiste; Whytle, Henry, Holmes; Smith

Oxford

Manchester City

For Manchester City, only three first-team players will be missing out on Tuesday, with Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Benjamin Mendy (foot) and Claudio Bravo (Achilles) still on the treatment table. Among these, the latest reports suggest that De Bruyne could be set to return to action earlier than anticipated, having made quick recovery on his injury.

Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola is set to ring in the changes against Oxford, handing a rare start to a number of fringe players, starting with the goalkeeper. Bravo is usually the custodian who lines up between the sticks in domestic cup games. But, his injury means Arijanet Muric could be set to make his debut for Manchester City.

In the back four, Danilo is set to start on the right side of the defence, having completely recovered from his ankle injury. On the opposite flank, Oleksandr Zinchenko should get the nod, with Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi lining up in a strong central defensive partnership.

In midfield, we might finally see John Stones take his place as a holding midfielder, with Guardiola previously hinting towards the same. Alongside him in the middle of the park, teenage prodigies Brahim Diaz and Phil Foden will likely get an opportunity to impress the Manchester City boss.

Upfront, the visitors will again pose a strong look, with Gabriel Jesus spearheading the attack. Riyad Mahrez and Leroy Sane could be the wide men that will look to heap the misery on Oxford.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Muric; Danilo, Kompany, Otamendi, Zinchenko; Foden, Stones, Diaz; Mahrez, Jesus, Sane

City

Key Stats

  • Oxford United and Manchester City have previously met 13 times in all competitions, with the visitors holding the narrow edge in the head-to-head battle with six wins (D2 L5).
  • Tuesday’s clash though, will be the first ever meeting between the two sides in the League Cup. The only other encounter featuring Oxford United and Manchester City was in 1974, with the Citizens winning 5-2.
  • his is Oxford’s first third round League Cup match since November 2002, when they lost 3-0 to Aston Villa. The hosts haven’t reached the fourth round since the 1997-98 season.
  • The holders of the League Cup haven’t lost a tie against third tier opposition since October 1997, when Leicester City were beaten 3-1 by Grimsby Town.
  • Reigning top-flight champions have progressed from 28 of their 29 League Cup ties against sides from the third tier or below. The only exception was in 1974-75 in the form of Leeds United, who lost 3-0 to Chester City in the fourth round.

Player to Watch

Brahim Diaz

A rare opportunity beckons. (Photo courtesy - Michael Regan/Getty Images)

A rare opportunity beckons. (Photo courtesy – Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Brahim Diaz is one of the two Manchester City young boys that have promised a lot since breaking into the first-team setup, pretty much at the same time. But, like Phil Foden, the chances have come few and far between for the 19-year-old, who has reportedly been linked with a possible departure as a result.

Against Oxford United though, Diaz will look to prove a point and make a case for regular look-in by Guardiola. Expect the teenage sensation to come out all guns blazing and leave a lasting impact on the Manchester City boss.

Prediction

Oxford United 1-4 Manchester City

It is often said that cup competitions are the breeding grounds of catastrophic upsets. Manchester City themselves are no strangers to being in such positions, most recently against Wigan Athletic earlier this year. But, under Pep Guardiola, the Citizens have made it a habit to win, and win big.

Thus, even with a largely second-string side starting at The Kassam Stadium, anything but a Manchester City win will come in as a huge shock, especially with Oxford struggling massively at the moment. The Hard Tackle predicts a comfortable evening for Pep Guardiola & co., with Brahim Diaz and Phil Foden making a statement.

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