Good evening everyone. We've been nothing if not thorough in it's coverage of the build-up to this Carling Cup quarter-final between Manchester City and their feeder club, Arsenal.
Dave Hytner has reported from the Emirates, where Arsene Wenger has been telling anyone that will listen that he nearly bought City midfielder Owen Hargreaves during the summer and will be fielding Yossi Benayoun and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a match that will afford Arsenal supporters the opportunity to boo, hiss, eff and jeff Samir Nasri upon his return to the Emirates; behaviour the Arsenal manager has been quick to discourage. "You want to respect the players who have played for us, that is what we expect," he said said. "But it is always more important to support our team on Tuesday night, than to be negative towards the players of Manchester City."
Elsewhere, Louise Taylor has been chronicling Roberto Mancini's grumbles about the vagaries of the fixture list, while Paul Doyle has explained why the Carling Cup is a bit like finding an injured badger on your doorstep.
Arsenal: Fabianski, Djourou, Squillaci, Koscielny, Miquel, Frimpong, Coquelin, Benayoun, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Park, Chamakh.
Subs: Mannone, Yennaris, Vermaelen, Eastmond, Ozyakup, Gervinho, Arshavin.
Manchester City: Pantilimon, Onuoha, Savic, Kolo Toure, Zabaleta, Johnson, de Jong, Nasri, Hargreaves, Kolarov, Dzeko.
Subs to follow: Richards, Bridge, Taylor, Aguero, Suarez, Rekik, Razak.
And as a special treat, here's an actual photograph of the team-sheet, courtesy of Jamie Jackson, our man at the Emirates.
First email of the evening ... and it's a belter: "Feeder club?" writes Steve, whose embarrassment I'll spare by not publishing his surname. "Wow, what an original way to insult every Arsenal fan who, like me, will now leave your feed and go elsewhere for match updates. Twat."
Seeya, Steve! If there's one thing I love more than a humourless football fan who is desperate to be offended, it's a humourless football fan who is desperate to be offended and labouring under the delusion that he's speaking for all his fellow supporters.
Not including their bench, where WAYNE BRIDGE will be minding the tracksuits, getting a long overdue rest from shopping and nightclubbing ... I reckon this Manchester City's reserve XI cost somewhere in the region of £125m. I kind of lost interest at that point, so I didn't bother figuring out how much Arsenal's line-up cost. If anyone wants to do the honours on my behalf, feel free ...
Another email: "Wenger banging on about Hargreaves is like a bitter teenage boy saying he totally could've pulled the fittest girl at school, but chose not to and now she's with that loser," writes Hugh Collins. "I'm guessing Hargreaves is very pleased that Arsenal didn't yank him from City's loving embrace - he's going to get a league medal and enough money to pay for what will be (let's face it) a lifetime of minor injuries."
Robin van Persie takes his seat in the stand, high-fiving those around him, signing a few autographs and looking resplendent in an expensive looking padded brown parka with fur trim around the hood and lots of zips. Meanwhile in the tunnel, the teams line up and make their way out on to the pitch, with both sets of players kitted out in the colours with which they're most readily associated.
Greg Braun writes: "You're offending Arsenal fans?" he says. "I thought it was a dig at City ... has the world gone mad and left me to it?"
This, from Colin Bolster: "Forget the £ value of the respective starting elevens, what's their worth in Scrabble?" he writes. "There seem to be a lot of X, Y and Zs." Not long until kick-off now ...
A minute's appreciation for Gary Speed: The team's line up around the centre-circle for a minute's appreciation for the former Wales manager, who died so tragically at the weekend. After warm applause, there's about 30 seconds of perfectly observed silence, before a chant of "one Gary Speed!" starts rolling around the Emirates.
1 min: Samir Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta get proceedings under way, with the former finding himself on the receiving end of a chorus of boos as soon as he touches the ball.
2 min: City line up in a 4-2-3-1, with Owen Hargreaves and Nigel De Jong patrolling the are in front of the back four, with Adam Johnson on the right of midfield, Samir Nasri in the centre and Aleksandr Kolarov on the left. Edin Dzeko plays alone up front. Arsenal are playing a 4-4-2, with Yossi Benayoun and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left and right of Emmanuel Frimong and Francis Coquelin in the centre of midfield. Ju Young Park and Maroune Chamakh form their two-pronged strike-force. Well, a one-pronged strike-force, plus Marouane Chamakh.
4 min: The atmosphere is lively in the Emirates, with a big crowd in after Arsenal reduced their ticket prices for the night that's in it. The presence of Samir Nasri is also helping to spice things up - he's being subjected to comical amounts of abuse every time he touches the ball.
6 min: After six minutes, Ignasi Miquel tries the first shot in anger from about 25 yards. His effort is fairly feeble and skims along the ground and into the clutches of City goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon.
8 min: City manager Roberto Mancini has already instructed Sergio Aguero to begin warming up. I'm not sure why - Edin Dzeko doesn't appear to be hurt and hasn't been performing badly enough to be hooked before the 10-minute mark.
9 min: Despite plenty of early huff and puff, very little of note has happened yet; although as I type that, Adam Johnson picks up the ball on the right flank, cuts inside Miquel, gets the ball on to his left foot and unleashes a powerful drive, which Fabianski tips out for a corner from which nothing comes.
11 min: Arsenal go so, so close after a marvellous move in which Frimpong and Coquelin combined well in the middle, before the latter squared the ball across the edge of the six-yard box, where Ju-Young Park was loitering behind Nedum Onuoha. The South Korean hit it first time, but his left-footed effort from close range was parried brilliantly by Pantilimon, who stretched out his left hand to prevent what looked a certain goal.
16 min: Zabaleta tries a pot-shot from close range, but his effort fizzes hopelessly wide.
18 min: With Arsenal playing a high defensive line, Edin Dzeko is penalised for offside as he tries to run on to a long ball played over the top. Replays show there was very little in it, but the call was correct.
23 min: Francis Coquelin goes down injured, but is able to continue after a quick rub-down with the magic sponge.
25 min: Johan Djourou swings in a cross from the right flank, but it's too high for Marouane Chamakh to get his head on the end of it. The ball is eventually put out for an Arsenal corner, which Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain takes. City half-clear, but concede a throw in their own left-back position. After some faffing around between Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kolarov down in the corner, the ball goes out for a goal-kick.
27 min: From outside the penalty area, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sends a left-footed surface-to-air screamer arrowing towards the top right-hand corner. In the Manchester City goal, Costel Pantilimon performs heroics to claw the ball out for a corner, from which nothing comes. Marvellous shot and a fine save.
29 min: Manchester City win a corner, which is sent into the mixer, where goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski has his first flap of the evening. He gets away with it, but Arsenal concede another corner. The ball's sent into the penalty area again and the home side clears.
31 min: Arsenal break on a counter-attack, during which the speedy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain beats Stefan Savic for toe and draws a foul from the Montenegrin deep in Manchester City territory.
32 min: Manchester City substitution: the shepherd's crook comes out for Aleksandr Kolarov, who suffers the embarrassment of being substituted for tactical reasons just after the half-hour mark. Sergio Aguero goes on, while Samir Nasri moves from the centre of midfield to the left wing.
35 min: It's been an absorbing match so far - an interesting tactical battle in which Manchester City's five-man midfield have struggled to take advantage of their extra man in the middle, thanks in no small part to the sterling efforts of Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin in the centre of Arsenal's midfield four. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been impressive too: he's big, strong and very quick.
37 min: Nasri tries to advance from midfield from Manchester City, but Emmanuel Frimpong muscles him off the ball. It's not the first time this evening he's done that to his former team-mate.
38 min: Frimpong and Coquelion exchange passes a few yards outside the Manchester City penalty area, but as the latter goes to return the ball to his midfield partner, Sergio Aguero nips in to intercept and steal the ball. In his efforts to win it back, Frimpong crumples under a challenge from Pablo Zabaleta. He's hurt, but not so badly that he needs attention from the physio.
39 min: Squeezed tight, Frimpong, Coquelin, Benayoun and Oxlade-Chamberlain ping the ball to each other on the edge of the final third, attempting to unpick the lock of what is temporarily an eight-man Manchester City rearguard. Their efforts come to naught and City clear.
43 min: "As an Arsenal fan I too am offended by your description of us as City's feeder club," writes Robert Lowery. "Surely given the long list of Petit, Overmars, Van Bronkhorst, Sylvinho, Henry and Cesc, we are actually Barcelona's feeder club, which is far more respectable."
43 min: Adam Johnson picks up the ball on the right touchline and tries to jink inside Ignasi Miquel. The Spanish defender keeps his eye on the ball and stands firm. He blocks, the ball clanks off his shin and goes out for a throw-in.
44 min: There'll be a minimum of one minute of added time. Arsenal finish the half with an Oxlade-Chamberlain cross from the right, which Manchester City clear courtesy of Kolo Toure. The referee blows for half-time - it's 0-0 at the Emirates, where it's been an interesting, if not thrilling first half ...
Some half-time analysis from reader Aidan Gibson: "If we're City's feeder club, than their scouting department needs overhaul, what with Adebayor and Toure mainly being failures and Samir Nasri not looking too clever so far (benched for James Milner!)," he says. "Anyway, fair half from the Arsenal reserves and youngsters. Coquelin and Frimpong have been damn impressive. City will probably win seeing as they get to bring on Sergio Aguero and Micah Richards, and we can bring on Andrey Arshavin and Nico Yennaris, but, when you lose £197m in a single year, what do you expect?"
To be honest, I remain mystified by how anyone can lose 197 million of anything; it smacks of extreme carelessness. Anyone, for anyone who might be wondering, we'll have a winnerthe game's still all square at full time.
An email from Steve Fenton. "Has anyone ever written an article about City in the last two years without using the phrase 'expensively assembled squad'," he asks. "Try counting what Man U, Spurs and Chelsea cost. Add some for inflation (over 10 years - i.e. price Rooney at today's prices) since City bought all their players in the last 18 months. Any phrases for other teams? 'This massively indebeted club', 'this expensive but badly managed club', 'this club funded by the fallout from the Soviet collapse', 'this club staffed by youngsters gleaned from every coner of Francophone Africa'. Then try fiitng these phrases to clubs."
I should add that I have no real idea what point Steve is trying to make here, but he sounds like a delusional Manchester City fan having a bit of a whine. Apologies if I'm mistaken, Steve.
Second half: No changes at half-time and Sky's man on the touchline reveals that Aleksandr Kolarov was replaced in the first half because of "a tweak to his right quad".
47 min: In the opening stages of the first half, Arsenal attack courtesy of Park, who tries and fails to pick out Benayoun in the penalty area. Manchester City clear their lines and launch a counter-attack which culminates in Edin Dzeko trying his luck from 30 yards out. His drive fizzes a foot or so wide of the upright.
50 min: Arsenal win a corner and the ball is lofted in to the penalty area, where Pantilimon comes off his line to try to pluck it from the air. He fails to hold on to the ball, but City clear.
51 min: Alex Oxlade Chamberlain picks up the ball on the inside-left channel, embarks on a mazy run and unleashes a shot wthat swerves in the air before stinging Pantilimon's palms. Another good effort foiled by another good save.
53 min: Adam Johnson picks out Sergio Aguero on the right flank with a splendid defence-splitting pass from the centre-circle. Aguero fails to control the ball properly, it ricochets of Miquel, and then Dzeko and the Argentinian get their wires crossed on the edge of the penalty area, allowing Arsenal to clear.
55 min: Owen Hargreaves has been booked for a foul on Emmanuel Frimpong about 35 yards from the Manchester City goal. Oxlade Chamberlain sends the free-kick into the mixer, where Pablo Zabaleta clears.
57 min: With his back to goal, Edin Dzeko tries to flick an incoming shot just inside the upright, but his bearings are all wrong and he steers the ball wide.
59 min: Another email, from another reader who seems desperate to eke out offence where none is intended. What on earth is wrong with so many people? "Re your opening gambit of 'we've been nothing if not thorough'," writes Petr Fremont. "That would be nothing then. You and I both know that the topic of Hargreaves wouldn't have passed Wenger's lips if he hadn't been asked by your man. I'm not much offended. I live in the US where every media figure earns a large part of his pay touting the other offerings from their employers. Nice to see GU is up-to-date in that regard." Eh?
63 min: Ignasi Miquel hacks the ball clear under pressure from Sergio Aguero.
64 min: While I was trying and failing to figure out what Petr Fremont was on about, Owen Hargreaves had his first shot in anger of the evening. From about 25-30 yards out from goal, the City midfielder shot high over the bar.
65 min: Marouane Chamakh, who's done nothing this evening, appears to be coughing and spluttering quite a lot, as if he's on the verge of being physically ill. I suspect he may not last much longer in this game.
67 min: Park plays a decent diagonal ball through the centre to Benayoun, who helps it along to Chamakh, who'd made a decent run. The Arsenal striker shoots high and wide from a tight angle.
68 min: Arsenal substitution: Park off, Gervinho on.
69 min: "Perhaps I'm reading too much into Steve Fenton's e-mail, but I'm not convinced drawing your players from Francophone Africa is the same thing as being funded with assets stolen from a country's people," writes Stephen Bush. "But perhaps I'm being too Guardian."
71 min: Manchester City go forward, with De Jong picking out Dzeko with a long ball. The City striker's first touch is poor and he Heskeys the ball wide off his shin.
73 min: Gervinho tries a shot from a good way out, but sends his effort sailing high and wide of the City goal.
74 min: "Your offended readers need to relax," writes Paul Taylor. "A couple minutes with LeAnn Rimes should do that. Beats watching football all day."
74 min: After another powerful run, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain picks out Gervinho on the left side of the City penalty area with a precision diagonal ball from right to left. The substitute tries to turn and shoot, but Kolo Toure sticks to him limpet-like and doesn't allow him to fire off a shot.
76 min: Oxlade-Chamberlain is in the thick of the action again and gets a shot off from about 20 yards. It's on target, but doesn't trouble Pantilimon unduly.
78 min: Man City substitution: Owen Hargreaves off, Abdul Razak on. Arsenal substitution: Ignasi Miquel off, Thomas Vermaelen on.
80 min: Gervinho goes galloping from the edge of his own penalty area and down the left touchline, only to be dispossessed by Edin Dzeko, who was tracking back dutifully.
81 min: Dzeko and Aguero combine well down in the corner, allowing the former to send in a cross which Johan Djourou clears with a meaty header.
GOAL! Arsenal 0-1 Man City (Aguero 83) Manchester City score with a marvellous counter-attacking goal from an Arsenal corner. Breakling out of his own penalty area, Edin Dzeko plays a glorious pass up the centre to Adam Johnson, who waits briefly before swiveling and laying the ball off to Sergio Aguero. The Argentinian slots the ball past the hopelessly exposed Lukasz Fabianski and into the bottom right-hand corner from about 20 yards.
85 min: Arsenal substiutution: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain off after a fine performance, Andrey Arshavin on.
87 min: Sergio Aguero, who seems in very spiky form tonight, gets penalised for a completely unneccessary foul on Sebastien Squillaci.
88 min: From the centre, Arshavin plays the ball out wide to Gervinho on the right touchline, as Arsenal try to get back in the game. He wins a corner, putting the ball out of play off Pablo Zabaleta.
89 min: The ball's played in to the City penalty area, where Thomas Vermaelen sends it wide off the top of his head. There wasn't much else he could have done with that, as the delivery was a tad too high.
90+1 min: Arsenal win another corner and Arsene Wenger signals to Lucasz Fabianski to lumber up to cause a bit of mayhem in the City penalty area. The ball's sent in from the quadrant, Pantimilion gathers and tries to pick out Adam Johnson with a long punt down the field. Fabianski gets back in time to prevent the winger from extending City's lead.
90+2 min: Arsenal attack down the right, from where Gervinho sends the ball flashing across the face of goal. Marouane Chamakh ducks his head, but fails to attack the ball with any conviction and doesn't even make contact.
90+3 min: Andrey Arshavin tries a shot from distance which takes a wicked defelction, but Pantimilion is alert enough to get down and save comfortably.
Peep! Peep! Peeeeep! It's all over - Manchester City are through to the semi-finals of the Carling Cup for only the sixth time in their history, with Sergio Aguero having scored the only goal of an absorbing quarter-final that didn't fully spark into life until the final 10 minutes. Would you believe that's Manchester City's first win away to Arsenal in their last 29 attempts?
This from Pat Healy: "The most puzzling thing for me about City's 197 million loss is why no one thought to blow another three million on a huge Christmas party to round it up to £200m," he writes, adding: "It would have been so much neater."
"I'm sorry to burst Paul Taylor's bubble," writes Michael Stewart, producing a long, sharp metaphorical pin from his metaphorical hat. "LeAnn Rimes is not the best option if you want your offended readers to relax. I would offer them Weightless by Marconi Union, scientifically proven to be the world's most relaxing music. And worst, I guess."