London: Burton Albion will need a “miracle” to overcome the might of Premier League champions Manchester City over two legs in the League Cup semi-final according to manager Nigel Clough, but he is no stranger to producing Cup upsets.
Son of legendary manager Brian Clough, who led Nottingham Forrest to win two European Cups, Clough was in his first spell in charge when Burton, then in English football’s fifth tier, held a Manchester United boasting Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney 0-0 in the FA Cup in 2006.
Burton have since progressed to the third tier in League One, but Clough believes stopping Pep Guardiola’s City, particularly when they travel to the Etihad on Wednesday, is an even tougher task.
“I think this one over two legs,” said Clough, when asked to compare which was the tougher challenge.
“When Rooney and Ronaldo came on after 59 minutes here for Manchester United, it’s a similar sort of prospect with the likes of the quality that Manchester City have.
“But away from home, it’s a different thing. When they are on their own patch, as you saw against Liverpool, they’re as good and as confident as anything.”
Clough also masterminded Sheffield United’s run to the last four of both the League and FA Cup when in League One in two seasons at Bramall Lane between 2013 and 2015.
However, in eliminating Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough of the Championship and Premier League strugglers Burnley, Burton haven’t yet faced anyone of City’s calibre.
“We’ve not gone into any detail with them because that will frighten the life out of them,” admitted Clough. “They know. They watch Match of the Day every week. They know exactly how good they are.
“To reach the League Cup semi-final, in some ways the job is done.
“But we still have an outside chance of achieving a miracle, and that’s what we’ll try for.”
Clough won the League Cup twice as a player under his father’s tutelage at Forrest before a big money move to Liverpool in 1993 and then joining City in 1995 at a time when Premier League survival rather than dominance was the target at Maine Road.
The modern day Abu-Dhabi backed City are still in the hunt for four competitions, after closing the gap on Liverpool to four points at the top of the Premier League table, they thrashed Rotherham 7-0 on Sunday despite naming a much-changed side.
“We do what we have to do to become a great, great club,” warned Guardiola. “The great clubs don’t choose competitions, don’t choose games, you have to do your job.”
The next job for the champions is to end Clough’s dream of leading his side out at Wembley as his father did so often with Forrest.