Sunderland and Manchester United have the chance to put their respective troubles to one side on Tuesday by closing in on a Wembley final.
Both clubs have fallen some way short of expectations in the Premier League so far this season, with Sunderland languishing at the foot of the table and United 11 points behind leaders Arsenal in seventh.
United were also dumped out of the FA Cup on Sunday as Swansea City claimed a shock 2-1 win at Old Trafford to pile further pressure on David Moyes.
However, both United manager Moyes and Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet will know a trophy is well within reach when their teams meet at the Stadium of Light for the first leg of a League Cup semi-final.
Sunderland have already sprung one major surprise in this season's League Cup, knocking out Chelsea at the last-eight stage courtesy of Ki Sung-Yueng's extra-time winner.
In contrast to United, Poyet's men also tasted success in the FA Cup at the weekend, beating League One side Carlisle United 3-1 to reach the fourth round.
Although Sunderland will have significant concerns over their own Premier League position, it is United who will surely go into Tuesday’s match under the greatest pressure.
In his first season since taking over from the legendary Alex Ferguson, Moyes has overseen five home defeats and will be eager to head back to Old Trafford for the second leg against Sunderland with a lead.
United, who ran out 2-0 winners at Stoke City in the previous round, have lifted the League Cup on four occasions, with three of their triumphs coming in the last eight seasons.
Sunderland's only final appearance came in 1985, when an own goal from Gordon Chisholm enabled Norwich City to claim a 1-0 victory at Wembley.
Moyes will have to cope without Fabio after the defender picked up a straight red card in the defeat to Swansea.
Fabio's dismissal came just four minutes after he had been introduced as a replacement for Rio Ferdinand, who appeared to suffer a knee injury.
United were without strikers Robin van Persie (thigh) and Wayne Rooney (groin) against Swansea and both appear likely to be unavailable at Sunderland.
Sunderland are without goalkeeper Keiren Westwood (shoulder) and defender Carlos Cuellar (thigh), while captain John O'Shea, who spent more than 10 years with United, has been troubled by a persistent shoulder problem in recent weeks.
The two teams last met in the League Cup 13 seasons ago, with Sunderland winning a fourth-round tie 2-1 after extra-time at home.
|City won´t make top four, says James|
|Clyne eyes Premier League title with Liverpool|
|Dos Santos key to Galaxy´s bid for continental dominance|
|Brazil to play Costa Rica in New Jersey|
|Ajax loss ´sad for Dutch football´ - De Boer|
|United target Bale happy at Real|
|Guardiola furious but Mihajlovic defends De Jong: ´Football isn´t dancing´|
|Champions League top priority at PSG - Di Maria|
|UEFA Champions League Review: Ajax crash out after home defeat|
|Blackpool handed suspended deduction|
|Bayern Munich 3 Milan 0: Guardiola and De Jong lock horns in tunnel|
|Akpom, Ojo and Solanke on the move|
|McClaren: No Newcastle bid for Austin|
|Real Madrid 2 Tottenham 0: Bale on target against former club|
|Mangala vows to improve on debut campaign|
|Tomlin completes Bournemouth switch|
|Astra v West Ham: Page hungry for first-team action|
|Di Maria arrives in Qatar for PSG medical|
|Vitesse v Southampton: Caulker prepared to wait for his chance|
|UEFA rejects Fenerbahce´s Fred appeal|
|Watford show support for assaulted fan as police charge six|
|Ibrahimovic to miss PSG opener|
|Klopp suited to Bayern job - Watzke|
|Eredivisie season-opener postponed due to police strike|
|Dortmund v Wolfsberger: Tuchel set for home bow|
|Griezmann at the double in Atletico win|
|Japan v South Korea: Halilhodzic calls for ´pride´|
|Mourinho enjoying improved relationship with Abramovich|
|Gradel agrees Bournemouth return|
|Inter switch an ´easy decision´ for Miranda|
|Bojan eyes early comeback|
|Vitesse hopeful over Solanke loan deal|
|Pedro will decide his own future - Luis Enrique|
|Iniesta handed Barcelona armband|
|Kukesi punished after Europa League abandonment|
|Leno hints at Leverkusen exit|
|Benitez explains Ronaldo absence|
|Pochettino backs Kane to be among world´s best|
|Messi not ruled out of Mexico friendly - Martino|
|China v North Korea: Kim´s side look for another win|
|River Plate v Tigres UANL: Copa Libertadores final evenly poised|
|Real target Ceballos focused on Betis - Mel|
|Torres: I´d give my life to win La Liga with Atletico|
|Platini can lead FIFA change - Fernandez|
|Mel: Betis won´t be signing Osvaldo|
|Ferrero defends Samp boss Zenga|
|Pochettino expects Spurs improvement|
|Bale ideal for United - Robson|
|Ferdinand: Di Maria will regret United failure|
|Benitez pleased with goalkeepers as De Gea transfer saga continues|
|Guardiola tips fit Schweinsteiger to shine|
|Confident Oxlade-Chamberlain hits back at Keane|
|Ferdinand: Stones would be ´a lunatic´ to join Chelsea|
|Qarabag v Celtic: Gordon wants positivity from Scottish champions|
|Higuain rejects extension from Napoli|
|Zamora returns to Brighton|
|West Ham can cope without Valencia - Gold|
|Wickham loses on Palace debut|
|Guardiola: No problem with Matthaus and Effenberg comments|
|Cartabia excited by Deportivo loan|
|Lyon confirm Rafael deal|
|Hysaj agrees deal to follow Sarri to Napoli|
|Rafael says his goodbyes to Manchester United|
|Dos Santos ready to get going with Galaxy|
|Pochettino rejects Soldado exit talk|
|Metatarsal misery for Mulumbu|
|Benitez: Benzema and Bale going nowhere|
|Mihajlovic: Ibrahimovic would make Milan title contenders|
|Hughes not taking any risks with Bojan|
|Guardiola relishing Audi Cup test|
|Di Maria ´taking a step up´ - Silva|
|Leicester bring in defender Benalouane|
|Deulofeu doubtful for Premier League opener|
|West Ham striker Valencia out for three months|
|UEFA: Qarabag-Celtic to go ahead|
|Palace seal Wickham swoop|
|Ronaldo and Benzema to miss Audi Cup|
|Marotta: Juventus could lose Pogba|
|Kante completes Leicester switch|
|Khedira ruled out for two months|
|FA accepts Mourinho criticism of Wembley surface|
|Robben rubbishes injury talk|
|Marchisio expects Milan title challenge|
|Rafael set for Lyon move|
|Celtic ´seeking reassurances´ over Qarabag pitch|
|Wenger beating Mourinho does not affect Chelsea - Zouma|
|Rooney moved by Everton welcome|
|Mancini not worried by lack of Inter goals|
|Coloccini wants to finish career at Newcastle - McClaren|
|Ramsey: Pressure to win trophies is nothing new|
|Terry: Wembley defeat could be a ´blessing in disguise´|
|Blatter not running for IOC re-election|
|Bendtner: Wolfsburg can challenge Bayern for Bundesliga honours|
|Liverpool relishing Britannia return, says Henderson|
|Everton big enough to keep Stones - Martinez|
|MLS Review: Fire stun Dallas as goals dry up|
|New Atletico signings excite Raul Garcia|
|Cahill expects Arsenal title challenge|
|Jovetic happy with Inter debut|
|Luis Enrique: Barca defence must improve|
|Yanev calls for calm after ugly scenes in friendly|
|Coppa Italia Review: Cittadella romp to victory, Brescia rely on penalties|