Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini demanded that his side put thoughts of Capital One Cup success on the backburner and concentrate solely on reclaiming their Premier League crown after cruising through to the competition’s semi-finals with victory against Hull last night.
Top-flight leaders City, who have also sealed their place in the Champions League knockout stages, reached the last four of the League Cup for the fourth time in seven seasons.
A double from £54m midfielder Kevin de Bruyne and strikes from Wilfried Bony and Kelechi Iheanacho took City’s tally to 42 League Cup goals in 11 matches under Pellegrini, who won the tournament during his first campaign in English football in 2014.
City’s assault on all fronts received a sizeable boost with the news that prolific frontman Sergio Aguero and goalkeeper Joe Hart are in contention to return against Stoke on Saturday after heel and hamstring injuries respectively. Skipper Vincent Kompany, however, is set to remain on the sidelines until mid-December.
“It is now very important in December and January to be very strong in the Premier League because I think these two months will decide, not 100 per cent, but an important amount of chances to win the Premier League,” said Pellegrini, who handed playmaker David Silva his first start since 3 October following an ankle problem.
“If we finish in the top position in our Champions League group it is better but we already qualified in that competition. The most important thing is that we are involved in all competitions at this stage of the season.”
City had won their last six League Cup ties against sides from a lower division, conceding just two goals in the process, and there appeared little chance of Hull bucking that trend once the hosts surged into a 12th minute lead.
Bony was on hand to convert the rebound after De Bruyne’s initial effort had struck the post, while City’s early breakthrough hinted at another League Cup annihilation having already thrashed Sunderland and Crystal Palace this term.
But an under-strength Hull, who threw on Uruguayan top scorer Abel Hernandez with 23 minutes to go, did not buckle, although Steve Bruce’s side were unable to overly trouble City goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
The home side finally dispatched the Tigers, whose only away victory against City came in 1930, courtesy of a three-goal blitz in the final 10 minutes, as firstly Raheem Sterling crossed for fellow substitute Iheanacho to prod home from close range.
City added gloss to the scoreline moments later as De Bruyne took full advantage of some calamitous Hull defending to add a third, before completing the scoring by curling home a free-kick from the edge of the penalty area with three minutes remaining.
Only Ipswich have scored more goals than Hull in the Championship this season and they notched an injury-time consolation as Scotland full-back Robertson dinked over Caballero after a surging run from his own half.