English big guns eye League Cup last four
London: Improbably kept apart in the League Cup quarter-final draw, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur will have eyes on the last four when the tournament resumes this week.
City visit Leicester City and Chelsea travel to Sunderland on Tuesday, with United away at Stoke City and Tottenham hosting London rivals West Ham United the following day.
It has raised the prospect of four of the country`s biggest sides convening in the semi-finals next month, ahead of the season`s first major final at Wembley Stadium in March.
United returned to winning ways in the Premier League after consecutive home defeats by winning 3-0 at Aston Villa on Sunday and manager David Moyes knows success in the League Cup would buy him breathing space after a difficult start to his Old Trafford tenure.
United beat Stoke 3-2 when the sides met in October and they have won four and drawn one of their five games at the Britannia Stadium since the Potters were promoted to the Premier League in 2008.
Tom Cleverley scored his first goal for exactly a year at Villa Park and he has challenged his team-mates to put their poor early-season form behind them.
"I think I played quite well and kept the ball and kept us ticking at a high tempo," the England midfielder told Sky Sports.
"I want to kick on from here now and so does the team. Hopefully this is the start of a good run."
Chelsea laboured during their 2-1 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, but the victory means that they can move to the top of the table if they win at leaders Arsenal on December 23.
The League Cup has particular significance for Jose Mourinho, as it was the first trophy he won in his first spell as Chelsea manager in 2005.
He has confirmed that he will rest club captain John Terry for the trip to Sunderland, while Ashley Cole is expected to return to the side in place of Cesar Azpilicueta.
"It`s great to be in the position we`re in," said goalkeeper Petr Cech, whose side won 2-0 at Arsenal in the fourth round.
"We topped the group in the Champions League, we`re two points off the Premier League leaders and we can be in the semi-final of a domestic cup if we win on Tuesday.
"All of this, and we know that we haven`t reached our peak, so it`s great."
Manchester City illustrated their title credentials by overwhelming Arsenal 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday and in Leicester they face the only non-Premier League side left in the competition.
Fernandinho, who scored his first two City goals since signing from Shakhtar Donetsk against Arsenal, says that confidence at the club is now sky-high.
"We showed we are a great team, a very good team," said the Brazilian.
"We showed we can beat any team. We showed very good football. The performance was incredible."
Tottenham, meanwhile, will be out for revenge against West Ham, who stunned Andre Villas-Boas`s side 3-0 when they visited White Hart Lane in October.
Spurs will also be looking for an immediate reaction after crashing 5-0 at home to Liverpool on Sunday, less than a month after going down 6-0 at Manchester City.
Leicester City v Manchester City, Sunderland v Chelsea
Stoke City v Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United