Kane returns, City rotation and Bale benched: What the EFL Cup final means for FPL | fpl.wiki


A late Aymeric Laporte (£6.0m) goal won Manchester City a one-sided Carabao Cup final, making it four years on the trot that the Sky Blues have lifted this least loved of major trophies.

The centre-half, in for the suspended John Stones (£5.1m), headed home Kevin De Bruyne‘s (£11.9m) free-kick in the 82nd minute to finally end Tottenham’s dogged resistance after a mostly one-sided content.

From a Fantasy perspective, however, the game was mostly about the returns from injury of some key players – and one man in particular.

KANE ‘FIT’

Having missed the midweek win over Southampton with yet another ankle injury, Harry Kane (£11.8m) made a swift recovery and was included in Spurs’ starting XI at Wembley.

Interim Spurs boss Ryan Mason said of Kane’s fitness ahead of kick-off:

Harry said he’s fit, so that’s enough for me. He’s trained with the group, so he’s fit and ready to go.

Based on the evidence of the final itself, Kane was neither of those things. He looked off the pace and strangely fragile at times, his labours not helped by such City dominance that the forward didn’t have a single shot all match.

The only good news for Kane, and his owners, is that Spurs now have a whole week off to recover both mentally and physically from Sunday’s loss.

They’ll then return to league action with a Gameweek 34 visit from Sheffield United, with Leeds, Wolves, Aston Villa and Leicester to come after that as they continue to chase down a Champions League spot for next season.

DE BRUYNE RETURNS

As for City, they welcomed back their only two previously sidelined players in the shape of De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero (£10.3m).

Aguero’s rather sad farewell season continued as he was an unused substitute but De Bruyne was as influential as ever, playing just off a ‘false nine’ – namely Phil Foden (£6.0m) – in the strikerless set-up that Guardiola often reserves for the so-called bigger games.

Pep Guardiola’s men completely controlled the match from start to finish, dominating possession (62%), attempts (21 v 2) and shots on target (4 v 1).

That it took so long for them to convert all that supremacy into a goal was down to profligacy, the odd slice of luck, stout defending and some smart keeping by Hugo Lloris (£5.6m).

Raheem Sterling (£11.1m) in particular ran amok in the first 20 minutes. He had nine penalty area touches during that spell and could have scored at least once.

The England international has been in and out of the side since his last league goal in the Gameweek 25 win at Arsenal and his current lack of form meant an old-school Sterling display at Wembley involving scintillating running, poor decision-making and precious little composure in front of goal.

Guardiola, however, was full of praise for his man:

Amazing. He showed the opponent we came here to win the game in the first actions. He was incredibly aggressive. We have no doubts of that, the mentality is great, he trained well and he made an incredible performance.

MORE CITY ROTATION

City’s run-in is an appealing one on paper and involves trips to Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Brighton and home games against Chelsea and Everton.

There are, of course, other factors at play for both De Bruyne and the rest of the team. 

City only need two more wins at most to secure the league title and there’s also the small matter of a Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain either side of Gameweeks 34 and 35, both of which should mean that this season’s Pep Roulette sessions aren’t done and dusted just yet.

True to form, Guardiola made six changes for this final from the strong-looking side he sent out in Gameweek 32.

Sunday’s match-winner, Laporte, is possibly the best bet for league starts in the short term, given that Stones will only be eligible to feature in Europe until he is free from suspension in Gameweek 36.

But should the likes of Ilkay Gundogan (£5.8m), Riyad Mahrez (£8.0m), Kyle Walker (£6.1m) and Foden all feature from kick-off against PSG on Wednesday, they will have racked up three successive competitive starts in the space of a week – surely putting them at risk of a benching against Palace next weekend.

BALE BENCHED

Kane, Lucas Moura (£6.7m) and Son Heung-min (£9.5m) were used in a three-pronged attack at Wembley, which meant no place for Gareth Bale (£9.1m).

There has been much talk of a possible end-of-season renaissance for the Welshman in FPL following the change of manager at Spurs but he was back in familiar surroundings on Sunday, warming the substitutes’ bench.

His omission wasn’t a massive shock, though, given the amount of off-the-ball work that the Lilywhites would have expected to carry out against the possession-hogging champions-elect.

A home match against relegated Sheffield United is a different ball-game altogether and there’s every chance that he returns to Mason’s starting XI in Gameweek 34.

While the overall Spurs display was underwhelming, the Toby Alderweireld (£5.4m) and Eric Dier (£4.6m) partnership at centre-half was excellent and may be here to stay for the run-in; the fact that City had only four shots on target from 21 efforts overall was largely due to the bodies-on-the-line defending in front of Lloris.


Man City XI (4-2-1-3): Steffen; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; Fernandinho (Rodri 84), Gundogan; De Bruyne (Silva 87); Mahrez, Foden, Sterling. 

Spurs XI (4-3-3): Lloris, Aurier (Bergwijn 90), Alderweireld, Dier, Reguilon; Højbjerg (Alli 84), Winks, Lo Celso (Sissoko 67); Lucas (Bale 67), Son, Kane.

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