The first domestic final of the season will pit Manchester City against Sunderland at Wembley on Sunday afternoon. City have unhappy memories from their last visit to Wembley, having suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final and Manuel Pellegrini’s men will certainly want to put things right this time around.
The Citizens head into the game as overwhelming favourites, but Sunderland have become a bit of cup-specialists under Gus Poyet and having dumped out Manchester United and Chelsea from the competition, the Black Cats will certainly not fear the Sky Blues on such a big occasion for the club.
It will be interesting to see which goalkeeper Pellegrini elects to start with in the final against Sunderland. Costel Pantilimon has started in all bar one of City’s Capital One Cup campaign and it would be only fair to the Romanian international if he starts in the final as well.
However, as we saw last season, Joe Hart was selected for FA final by former manager Roberto Mancini, despite Pantilimon starting in all the games prior to the showpiece event. Pellegrini should have enough faith in Pantilimon though, to start with the giant custodian against Sunderland.
Mateja Nastasic has been ruled out of the clash due to injury, which means that the preferred centre-back pairing of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott in the League Cup this season should start at the heart of the defence.
Pablo Zabaleta will probably start at the right hand side of the defence, while it will be interesting to see whether Gael Clichy or Aleksandar Kolarov get the nod at left-back. The likes of Martin Demichelis and Micah Richards will probably start from the bench.
It remains to be seen whether Pellegrini will elect to go with a five-man midfield, with only one up top or play a more adventurous four in midfield by deploying two strikers. Our guess is he will stick to a four-four-two, with the full-backs providing the width.
The Chilean manager should start with his strongest midfield, which means that the likes of Javi Garcia, Marcos Lopes, James Milner and Jack Rodwell, who have played a big role in the club’s run to final, could all miss out on the starting line-up.
Fernandinho and Yaya Toure will probably line-up in midfield while the duo of Samir Nasri and David Silva will probably be providing the creative spark from midfield. Spanish winger Jesus Navas will also be in contention.
Manuel Pellegrini has been handed a huge boost by the return of Sergio Aguero to full fitness recently. As a result, Pellegrini may be lured by the temptation of reuniting the devastating duo of Aguero and Negredo for the final, which means that Edin Dzeko could miss out. Stevan Jovetic will not feature owing to a hamstring problem.
Pantilimon; Kolarov, Kompany, Lescott, Zabaleta; Silva, Fernandinho, Toure, Nasri; Negredo, Aguero