Manchester City are not in a Carabao Cup draw for the first time in five years, but they still have reason to be watching Saturday's quarter-final draw.

Wednesday's defeat at West Ham ended City's incredible run of 21 straight rounds successfully navigated, with 23 victories and just one defeat in that time - a semi-final second-leg reverse to Manchester United in 2020. City's four-year hold on the League Cup is over, and for the first time, the cup will be won by another team under the current Carabao branding.

Pep Guardiola was gracious in defeat at the London Stadium, saying: "An incredible run has finished. We finished in a good way. We played in a really good way, creating chances against a team who defended deep.

"On penalties, they were better. Congratulations to West Ham. Next year we will be back."

And while City may have to wait until the end of the season for another trophy to add to their collection, they could be boosted in their attempts to win the Premier League after the West Ham disappointment.

By exiting the Carabao Cup before the quarter-final stage, City have ensured they get three free midweeks over the busy Christmas and January schedule - a period that often features regular complaints from Guardiola about the overworking of his players due to too many games.

He accepts that is the price to pay for City's desire to be at the business end of any competition they enter, but to have those extra days of rest at a crucial time isn't too bad a consolation prize.

Last year, City were unstoppable between December and March, including a Carabao Cup quarter-final and one-legged semi-final, but there was an acceptance that such a run was extraordinary rather than something fans could expect every season.

So City now get a full week between the trip to Newcastle on December 19 and the Boxing Day clash against Leicester. Three days follow before a trip to Brentford, with both festive opponents involved in the quarter-finals just days before Christmas.

City's first two Premier League fixtures of 2022 against Arsenal and Chelsea also come against sides remaining in the Carabao Cup. If both sides were to progress to the semi-finals, they would have two more fixtures in the first two weeks of January compared to City's more relaxed schedule.

With Riyad Mahrez expected to represent Algeria at the African Cup of Nations, the winger will now miss just seven fixtures compared to the nine he would have been absent for if City were still in the cup.

And the AFCON presents another reason why City won't be too disheartened to exit the cup this week, with more time for players to recover between games in Mahrez's absence.

For Chelsea and Liverpool, City's two title rivals, they remain on course to miss key players like Eduard Mendy, Hakim Ziyech, Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Naby Keita for those two extra games assuming they reach the semi-finals. Both sides have smaller squads to cope with more important absentees than City have to contend with.

Chelsea and Liverpool both have much more difficult fixture lists over this period, with Chelsea facing Brighton, Liverpool, City, Tottenham, Brighton and Arsenal. Liverpool face Leeds, Leicester, Chelsea, Brentford, Crystal Palace and Leicester again.

If three Carabao Cup games are added, they will need to use their full squads while City can benefit from more rest and easier fixtures on paper.

As they prepare for their showdown with Chelsea on January 15, they know they will have played a leisurely four fixtures in the previous 25 days. Chelsea could have seven in the same time.

If either or both reach the Carabao Cup final, they will have to fit in another fixture later in the season, too.

City, of course, showed that these things aren't necessarily important if a team has momentum on their side, however with the African Cup of Nations and a stark difference in the potential fixture lists of the three title contenders, the Blues will be hoping to use any slip up from their rivals to their advantage.

If there was a season to exit the Carabao Cup early, it is this one, and City will be quietly hoping that Chelsea and Liverpool are handed winnable quarter-final ties to ensure they remain involved in the competition going into January.