22 September 2014 16:48
Sheffield Wednesday take the second meanest Championship defence to League Cup holders Manchester City hoping to avoid a backlash.
City will eye Wednesday’s third-round tie at the Etihad Stadium as the perfect chance to end a four-match winless run in all competitions.
But Wednesday have started the new season well and there is no shortage of confidence at the Yorkshire club, both on and off the pitch.
Stuart Gray’s men dumped Premier League side Burnley out at Turf Moor to reach round three, have suffered just one defeat in the opening 10 games in 2014-15 in all competitions and have conceded only four times in eight Championship games.
Gray is under no illusion about the size of the task facing Wednesday, but the 54-year-old is determined to enjoy the occasion.
“I’m sure they will make 11 changes and that team will be worth around £300million and be full of internationals,” Gray told The Sheffield Star.
“But I’m really looking forward to my players pitting their wits against top, top players.
“That’s our aim. It’s a great game for us.
“You never know with the underdog.”
As Gray is quick to point out, City’s star-studded squad makes them the overwhelming favourites to start their League Cup defence with a routine victory.
Indeed, City’s League Cup record under Manuel Pellegrini is impressive.
Pellegrini’s side shipped just two goals in six games in last season’s tournament and ruthlessly swept aside Wigan Athletic 5-0 in the corresponding round.
The Premier League champions, however, have experienced a mixed start to this campaign, meaning Wednesday’s game offers the chance to send out a statement on intent.
Comprehensive wins over Newcastle United and Liverpool have been followed by a shock home defeat against Stoke City and draws against Arsenal and Chelsea wedged either side of a UEFA Champions League loss at Bayern Munich.
Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea came courtesy of Frank Lampard’s late leveller against his former club after Pablo Zabaleta had seen red, meaning he will miss the match against Gray’s side, and Pellegrini labelled it as the best City performance of the season.
Pellegrini is now likely to make changes for the visit of Wednesday and the Chilean must be tempted to give the likes of Sergio Aguero a rest to keep them clear of injury.
Stevan Jovetic (hamstring) and Fernando (groin) remain doubtful after both players missed the Chelsea game.
In former City trainee Keiren Westwood, Pellegrini’s attacking options will face a goalkeeper who saved a penalty in the 1-0 win over Reading at the weekend and has kept clean sheets in five of the side’s eight Championship outings.
When the two sides last faced each other in 2006-07, Wednesday forced an FA Cup third-round replay before losing 2-1 at City.