Wembley Stadium, London
March 02, 2014; 14:00 BST
Manchester City and Sunderland will face off in the final of the Capital One Cup at Wembley Stadium as both teams aim for glory. Manchester City of course comes into this game as the favourites to lift the title, but they will remember the fact that in a similar situation last year they lost to Wigan Athletic in the final FA Cup – which ultimately led to the dismissal of Roberto Mancini. So the Kompanys and Agueros won’t underestimate the Johnsons and Browns on this occasion.
Moreover, Sunderland have defeated the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea on their way to the final, so they have been in giant killing mode in this tournament already. The Blacks Cats also achieved a memorable win over Manchester City in the league back in November last year, so they will head into this game with a lot of confidence as well. But Gus Poyet’s men will certainly have to improve on the performance they produced against Arsenal at the weekend, which ended in a 4-1 thrashing for the away side.
Manchester City on the other hand are coming into this game on the back of a hard fought 1-0 win over Stoke City. They have also had a comparatively easier run the final of this competition and haven’t faced any of the big sides this season. But they do have history on their side in this tie as Sunderland haven’t beaten them away from home since 1998.
This is another classic David v Goliath final and one that is perfectly set up for a big upset.
Team news and tactics
Manuel Pellegrini doesn’t have too many injury concerns to deal with ahead of this big final, but he will be missing two of his key players. Stevan Jovetic struggle with his fitness in his first season in England continues as he remains unavailable with a hamstring injury. Matija Nastasic is also out of action due to a knee injury and his possible return date is yet to be announced. But the good news for Manchester City is the possible return of Sergio Aguero. The 25-year-old, who has been in fantastic form this season, despite struggling with his fitness, last appeared for Manchester in the 1-5 win over Tottenham Hotspur back in January. He has seemingly recovered from his hamstring injury and will undergo a late fitness test before the game. Pellegrini said that he is yet to decide whether to start with the Argentine international or bring him on as a substitute if required.
Aguero’s return will be big boost for Manuel Pellegrini, whose side have surprisingly struggled for goals recently. The Manchester based side have managed only three goals in their last five matches in all competitions.
Pellegrini is expected to make three changes to the side he fielded in the 1-0 win over Stoke City last weekend. Gael Clichy will replace Aleksandar Kolarov at left back, while Costel Pantilimon is expected to resume his role in the goal in place of Joe Hart. In attack only one change is expected as Aguero replaces Edin Dzeko upfront, although there is a possibility of Pellegrini starting with Dzeko and Negredo, if he decides that Aguero is not fit enough to start such a big game.
In defence Man City’s main worries will be to contain Sunderland’s danger man Adam Johnson on their left wing. Gael Clichy can be caught out of position at times and David Silva isn’t great at tracking back as well, where Sunderland do have the habit of overloading that side of the pitch with Bradsley and Ki supporting Johnson. Fernandinho and Demichelis might have to help out Clichy in dealing with the threats down that wing.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Pantilimon (GK); Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy; Nasri, Toure, Fernandinho, Silva; Aguero, Negredo
Gus Poyet doesn’t have too many injury concerns as well with goalkeeper Kieran Westwood being their only being the only long term absentee. Striker Steven Fletcher, whose last appearance for Sunderland was in the 1-0 win over Stoke City back in January, also seems to have some fitness concerns, but is unlikely to start even if he regains full fitness as Gus Poyet clearly prefers Jozy Altidore upfront.
But perhaps the most significant miss for Sunderland in this game will be the absence of midfielder Liam Bridcutt, who is cup tied having participated in the competition with Brighton earlier this season.
Gus Poyet is expected to make two changes to the side he fielded against Arsenal. Bridcutt is expected to be replaced by Lee Cattermole in the midfield, as he looks to protect the back four. Santiago Vergini, who had a forgettable after noon against the Gunners last weekend, will be replaced by experienced defender Wes Brown. Sebastian Larsson and Emanuele Giaccherini did stake a claim in the starting line-up with a bright performance against Arsenal after coming on as a substitute. Poyet could prefer Larsson over Colback in this game, although later does provide a bit more defensive cover in the midfield, while it looks unlikely that Giaccherini will replace either of Johnson or Borini on the wings.
Sunderland need to improve a lot on the performance they produced against Arsenal at the Emirates. They allowed too much time and space on the ball for the Arsenal midfielders and there was not hunger or desire in their game, at least in the first half. Sunderland can’t afford to do the same against Manchester City as they can be put to the sword very quickly. Poyet will need his men to be aggressive and fearless in this match as they have done so far in this competition.
There might also be a change in tactics for this game. Poyet used a 4-1-4-1 formation against Arsenal, and their midfielder had a lot of space to exploit in front of the defence. He is expected to change to a more compact and counter-attacking formation of 4-3-3.
Expected starting line-up (4-3-3): Mannone (GK); Bardsley, Brown, O’Shea, Alonso; Ki, Cattermole, Colback; Johnson, Altidore, Borini
Players to watch-out for: Fernandinho (Manchester City); Adam Johnson (Sunderland)
Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Sunderland