The first domestic final of the season will pit Manchester City against Sunderland in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley on Sunday afternoon (6:00 AM Pacific, 14:00 GMT). While the two teams have enjoyed contrasting fortunes in the Premier League, very few will argue that they do not deserve to take their place in the first showpiece event of the season, after enjoying a fine run in the competition.
While City have been dominant in their run to the Final, Sunderland have conducted a couple of giant-killing acts by eliminating the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United from the tournament.
City will head into the clash full of confidence after seeing off a resilient Stoke City last weekend, while Sunderland did not have the best of preparations for the match, after suffering a humiliating loss at the hands of Arsenal.
However, as clichéd as it may sound, the form book does go out of the window in a such a fixture and although City are overwhelming favorites for the clash, one cannot discount Sunderland from causing a major upset.
Costel Pantilimon has started in all bar one game in City’s run to the Final and the Romanian looks set to start in goal, while the duo of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott will probably be starting at the heart of the defence. The right full back position will be occupied by Pablo Zabaleta, while the left back position will be contested by Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov.
Manuel Pellegrini could stick to a four-four two formation, which means that Fernandinho and Yaya Toure will start in central midfield with Samir Nasri and David Silva providing the creative spark from the wide positions. The likes of Jack Rodwell, Javi Garcia, Marcos Lopes and James Milner, who have all played a role in the club’s run to the Final, will probably have to be content with a place on the bench.
Sergio Aguero returned from injury to full training recently and could slot straight into the starting lineup alongside Alvaro Negredo, which means that Edin Dzeko probably misses out. The duo of Mateja Nastasic and Stevan Jovetic are ruled out of the match with injuries.
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet had slammed his players after seeing his side surrender meekly against Arsenal last week. Poyet promised a raft of changes to the squad in the Final and it will be interesting to see how the Black Cats lineup.
Vito Mannone has been a star in the competition and will certainly start in goal, while the return of Wes Brown from suspension means that the veteran will probably start alongside his compatriot John O’Shea at centre-back, with Santiago Vergini, who had an absolute stinker against Arsenal, dropping to the bench. Marcos Alonso and Phil Bardsley look set to occupy the full-back positions.
Poyet had dropped a huge hint that Italian international Emmanuelle Giaccherini will be handed a start. The diminutive winger will probably start on the left with in-form Adam Johnson deployed on the right wing. The three-man midfield should consist of Jack Colback, Lee Cattermole and Ki-Sung Yeung, while either Fabio Borini or Jozy Altidore will be leading the line for the Black Cats.
Steven Fletcher has returned from injury and will probably start on the bench, while Liam Birdcutt will be ineligible, as he is cup tied.
Manchester City (Probable XI): Pantilimon; Kolarov, Kompany, Lescott, Zabaleta; Silva, Fernandinho, Toure, Nasri; Negredo, Aguero
Sunderland (Probable XI): Mannone; Alonso, Brown, O’Shea, Bardsley; Giaccherini, Colback, Cattermole, Ki, Johnson; Borini
Manchester City: L D W L W
Sunderland: W W L W L
10/11/2013 Sunderland 1 – 0 Manchester City
27/07/2013 Sunderland 0 – 1 Manchester City
26/12/2012 Sunderland 1 – 0 Manchester City
History in the Competition
City have won the League Cup on two occasions in their history. Their first triumph came in 1970 where they beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 with strikes from Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe, while the Citizens lifted the cup once again in 1976, with goals from Peter Barnes and Dennis Tueart helping the Sky Blues overcome Newcastle United.
Sunderland, on the other hand, have yet to taste victory in the Cup as of yet, with their best result coming in 1985 when they finished as runners-up after losing out to Norwich City.
Manchester City: Winners – 1970, 1976
Sunderland: Runners-up – 1985
Road to the Final
24/09/2012 Manchester City 5-0 Wigan Athletic (3rd Round)
30/10/2012 Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester City (4th Round)
17/12/2012 Leicester City 1-3 Manchester City (Quarter-Final)
8/01/2013 Manchester City 6-0 West Ham United (Semi Finals – 1st Leg)
21/01/2013 West Ham United 0-3 Manchester City (Semi Finals – 2nd Leg)
27/08/2012 Sunderland 4-2 Milton Keynes Dons (2nd Round)
24/09/2012 Sunderland 2-0 Peterborough United (3rd Round)
06/11/2012 Sunderland 2-1 Southampton (4th Round)
17/12/2012 Sunderland 2-1 Chelsea (Quarter-Final)
07/01/2013 Sunderland 2-1 Manchester United (Semi Finals – 1st Leg)
22/01/2013 Manchester United 2-1 Sunderland (P) (Semi Finals – 2nd Leg)
Manchester City vs Sunderland Prediction
On paper, City look the much better side, but Sunderland have defied all odds to reach the Final stage of the competition and the Black Cats will certainly not be looking to go down without a fight.
Both teams have been in bit of a shaky run of form lately, but interestingly enough, City have been able to get the better of Sunderland in only one of their last five meetings.
Pellegrini’s men will certainly look to take the game by the scruff of the neck from the first minute, so Sunderland should try to keep things tight at the back during the early stages of the game, in order to stand a chance. The Black Cats have proven that they do posses a lot of resolve and can certainly cause the Citizens a couple of problems of their own, on the break or from set pieces.
City will be hoping to exorcise the demons from their last visit to Wembley and Pellegrini’s men will certainly be focused for the tie. Gus Poyet’s men, on the other hand, are looking to create history for the club and will not need any motivation to give a 110% in the clash.
The match will be a tight one, but City have enough quality to see of the Black Cats. The Citizens should register a narrow victory. Manchester City 2 – 1 Sunderland
Manchester City vs Sunderland Television
The match will be televised on beIN Sports USA, and Sky Sports 1 (UK).