If League Two Exeter could make them sweat, then a Tuesday night date with Sunderland in the Capital One Cup was surely the perfect opportunity for Manuel Pellegrini to lighten the load of his Manchester City megastars and blood some fringe players instead.
Not a bit of it. The teamsheet City’s gaffer handed in at the Stadium of Light reflected a man smarting from a barren second season and under pressure to deliver the club’s owners some silverware.
In no way was Pellegrini prepared to gamble with an early exit on Wearside as the big hitters were out in full force, from Sergio Aguero to new signing Kevin De Bruyne, it was as strong as it conceivably gets for the Citizens.
The manager was duly rewarded with a match that was put to bed by the 36th-minute mark, paving the way for some rarely-seen faces to take the stage in the second half.
Following in the footsteps of Jose Mourinho’s first stint as Chelsea manager, the League Cup was Pellegrini’s first deposit in the City trophy cabinet en route to the far more prestigious Premier League title.
Fielding teams of such strength have to make City the best choice to lift the League Cup for a second time in three seasons at 19/4 with bwin.com, especially after landing a home draw in the fourth round.
It’s clear that the Chilean’s 2015/16 mandate is focused purely on adding to his haul in any competition possible, quite probably with the incentive of keeping his job, judging by the amount of squad investment Pellegrini has been granted.
A typically sluggish start in the Champions League aside – which City are out at 14s to win – the most expensively-assembled side in Premier League history have rocketed out of the blocks in the league and now the League Cup.
Their price of 57/100 to follow the pattern of alternate title-winning seasons appears more solid in lieu of Chelsea’s troubles and Arsenal’s failure to attract a world-class striker too.
Manchester United may well be City’s fiercest title rivals on the early evidence, but given this lust for silverware from within the Etihad ranks, bwin.com’s price of 6/5 about two or more trophies being landed (excluding the Europa League), resonates loudest.