BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
WARRIORS midfield maestro Marvelous Nakamba is set to become the first Zimbabwean to play in a major cup final in the Premier League era in England when his side Aston Villa clash with defending champions Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley tonight.
Nakamba is enjoying his first season in the English top-flight league after making a switch from Belgian giants Club Brugge in August last year.
Aston Villa — who are currently struggling in the league, hovering just above the relegation zone — made the final of English football’s second biggest domestic knockout competition following a 3-2 aggregate victory over Leicester City in the semi-finals in January.
Villa also accounted for Crewe Alexander, Brighton & Hove Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool on the road to Wembley.
But it is yet to be seen whether Nakamba will make the starting line-up as Villa bid for a fifth League Cup title in the club’s history and a place in the Europa League next season.
Their last triumph came in 1996 when they beat Leeds United 3-0 in front of 77 065 spectators.
Nakamba, who has won silverware in the Netherlands and Belgium, will be contending for a starting place in the Villa line-up against the likes of on-loan Chelsea midfielder Danny Drinkwater, Brazilian Douglas Luiz and Conor Hourihane.
A win against overwhelming favourites and Premier League champions Manchester City will also see Nakamba become the first Zimbabwean to win major silverware in England since Bruce Grobbelaar lifted the FA Cup in 1992 with Liverpool.
Liverpool beat Sunderland 2-0 through second half goals from Michael Thomas and Ian Rush.
Legendary former Warriors goalkeeper Grobbelaar is the last Zimbabwean to play in the League Cup when he played in the 1987 final in which the Merseyside club lost 2-1 to Arsenal.
However, Grobbelaar also won four consecutive League Cup titles with Liverpool between 1982 and 1986.
Former Coventry City and Birmingham City forward Peter Ndlovu missed out on a League Cup final appearance in 2001 after he helped the latter to the final.
But Birmingham released the former Warriors captain to join Sheffield United on the eve of the final.
Another Zimbabwean player, Benjani Mwaruwari, was unlucky not to have played in a major final after he was sold by Portsmouth to Manchester City in January 2008.
Portsmouth went on to win the FA Cup after beating Cardiff 1-0 courtesy of Nigerian Nwankwo Kanu’s first half strike.
Manchester City also won the FA Cup exactly one year after Benjani had left the club when they beat Stoke City, with Ivorian Yaya Toure the scorer of the only goal.