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What can Manchester City's dramatic League Cup shoot-out victory do for the rest of their season?

 
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Manchester City prevailed at Wembley against Liverpool with second choice goalkeeper Willy Caballero the hero as he saved three penalties in the shoot-out.

It was City's second League Cup victory in three years, with manager Manuel Pellegrini, who is leaving the club at the end of the season, regaining the first trophy he won as City manager in 2014.

In normal time it seemed that it would be Liverpool's stopper Simon Mignolet that would decide the tie, having fumbled a straight forward effort from Fernandinho in the second half to give City the lead.

He made up for his error with a string of top saves to deny the always dangerous Sergio Aguero, and when Liverpool equalised late on through Coutinho to take the game to extra time, his saves proved to be vital.

But it was Caballero who ended up the hero, making a fine save of his own in extra time to keep City in the game, and then saving three Liverpool penalties in the shoot-out, with Yaya Toure scoring the winner.

The Argentine had played every domestic cup tie for City this season, but after a couple of errors during their 5-1 thrashing at Chelsea in the FA Cup last week, calls for number one Joe Hart to be recalled were hard to ignore.

But Pellegrini, who had promised Caballero a starting spot, stuck to his guns, even saying afterwards that keeping his word was more important than winning the trophy.

But win it they did, and now City look like a side on the up for the first time since Pellegrini's departure, and Pep Guardiola's arrival at the end of the season was confirmed.

Since the announcement was made on Deadline Day, City had looked out of sorts, losing to title rivals Spurs and Leicester in successive home games, as well as the thrashing at Chelsea in the FA Cup, with Pellegrini fielding a vastly inexpe­ri­enced side in that game.

That decision has since been vindicated, with a huge 3-1 win in the Champions League last 16 tie away at Dynamo Kiev followed up by their League Cup success.

Now, with the Premier League and Champions League still to contend for, the question is whether they can add either of those titles to their League Cup trophy.

Barring a disastrous return leg at the Eithad, City look all but assured a place in the last eight of the Champions League. It has long been known that City's wealthy owners crave progression in Europe over any other success, having won two Premier League titles, an Fa Cup and two League Cups since taking over in 2008.

Making the quarter finals is a progression, having never made it past the last sixteen before, but having had a favourable last sixteen draw against an average Kiev side, how will they fare against teams of the highest calibre?

Barcelona and Real Madrid look sure to be in the draw, with incoming manager Guardiola's current charges Bayern Munich still with work to do after a 2-2 draw against Juventus.

But even if City were to avoid what are thought to be the three best sides in Europe, the likes of Atletico Madrid or  PSG would be a huge step up in quality if they are in the hat, and it will be City's performances against those sides on which their European campaign will be judged.

In terms of the League, City, with a game in hand on those around them, are nine points behind leaders Leicester and three above rivals Manchester United in fifth.

They go again with Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday evening, before games against struggling Norwich and the already doomed Aston Villa.

A result against Liverpool and two wins against sides at the bottom end of the table would propel City back into contention, and the derby against United at the end of March could end their rivals' hopes of breaking into the top four for good.

They still have to play a resurgent Chelsea as well as title rivals Arsenal in a key game in May, but on the whole their run in should give City fans reason to be optimistic about clinching their third title in five years. 

Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, Manuel Pellegrini will be leaving the Eithad, but with the League Cup in the bag and a renewed sense of optimism among the City faithful, he is guaranteed to leave with his head held high.


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