LONDON: This Sunday's League Cup final was billed as a showdown between old adversaries Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho but after a seismic week for Tottenham Hotspur it is rookie boss Ryan Mason trying to deliver their first silverware for 13 years.
Local boy Mason was elevated into the spotlight after Mourinho's sacking on Monday, a day after Tottenham were named as one of 12 founders of the doomed Super League.
With the soccer world focused on the turmoil caused by the proposed breakaway, the 29-year-old Mason's first game as interim manager on Wednesday, a hard-fought 2-1 Premier League win over Southampton, was partially lost in the storm.
Should Mason get the better of managerial heavyweight Guardiola at Wembley, it will make a much bigger impact.
Mourinho was hired 17 months ago at huge expense to deliver the trophies that have proved so elusive.
Yet it is former Spurs midfielder Mason, in only his second game since stepping up from his youth development role, who now has the chance to succeed where Mourinho failed.
"This is not about me, it's about the football club," Mason, who retired in 2018 as a consequence of injuries sustained while playing in a game for Hull City against Chelsea, told reporters.
"It's not about my ego, or me going up against Pep."
Mason played in Tottenham's last League Cup final - a defeat by Chelsea in 2015 in the early days of Mauricio Pochettino. Tottenham were underdogs in that game, but are even less fancied to beat Manchester City on Sunday.
They are unlikely to have talisman striker Harry Kane ready to start because of an ankle injury that sidelined him against Southampton, although Mason did not rule out the England captain on Friday, saying he would be assessed.
But even if Kane is absent, Mason believes Tottenham have enough quality to upset the odds against the Premier League champions-elect and end their long trophy drought.
"It's a one-off game and form goes out the window in finals," Mason said. "They are a great side with great players, but we are a great side with great players too and we will go there with confidence and belief."
CITY TREBLE BID
Manchester City's quadruple bid ended in an FA Cup semi-final defeat by Chelsea last weekend, but they return to Wembley bidding to land the first part of a treble and equal Liverpool's record four successive League Cup triumphs.
City are eyeing bigger things this season and the fact that the final is later than usual and they face Paris St Germain in the Champions League semi-final next week offers some encouragement to Spurs.
"When we start we say many times, every game must be taken seriously," Guardiola, whose first trophy at City was the League Cup in 2018, told reporters.
"I would say the Premier League is the first title of the season, then to qualify for the Champions League is the second. The third is Europe, then FA Cup, then after (League) Cup.
"Now we play in the middle of an important time of the season. Three days before we play a dream come true of a Champions League semi-final. It's a contradiction that it's a final we have to win, but one eye is on the Champions League.
"Of course it's a final. Once we are there, every player wants to win and we're not an exception."
The final will have 2,000 fans from each club in an 8,000-limit attendance as the government uses it as a test event for a return to crowds in the wake of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)