The first trophy of the football season will be decided at Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon as Man City play Sunderland in the League Cup Final. It’s always a memorable occasion as the two sets of fans descend on Wembley for the big match and although Man City will start the game as overwhelming favourites, they will not be underestimating a Sunderland side who have done a brilliant job to get this far in the competition. Gus Poyet and his men are in the midst of a relegation battle in the Premier League but they seem to have been able to play without that pressure in the Cup this season, which has seen them make it all the way to the Capital One Cup final and are also in the last eight of the FA Cup.
Meanwhile, Man City are right in the hunt on all domestic fronts going into this final and it would be a massive boost for Manuel Pellegrini if he can lift a trophy at the first time of asking since taking over at the Etihad last summer. His City side are right in the mix in the Premier League and are still in the FA Cup, making the treble a real possibility whilst are also still technically in the Champions League for the time being but face a massive task to keep the dream of winning the ‘quad’ alive having lost the first leg clash with Barcelona 2-0 recently.
City have been scoring goals for fun this season, only Liverpool have scored more in the Premier League, and given the strength of their attacking flair, it would be no surprise to see them give the Black Cats defence plenty to think about.
That said, more recently, City have struggled a little bit over the last few games when it comes to scoring, with only one goal to their name from their last four matches in all competitions. That will give Sunderland a glimmer of hope heading into this one although City fans will no doubt be expecting that mini scoring drought to come to an end sooner, rather than later. Sergio Aguero is back in training and the Argentinian will surely be desperate to be part of the squad for the big match. The bookmakers are convinced that city are the team to beat here with majority of online bookmakers rating them as short as 3/10 shots to win the match within 90 minutes!
It has been a very tough season for Sunderland so far with this Cup run the main highlight of what has been a difficult slog up to this point. Paolo Di Canio was given the elbow back in September after a disastrous spell in charge and while Gus Poyet has overseen a recovery of sorts, they remain deep in the relegation mire with the campaign now entering its final phase. They have lost their last two League games which has seen Sunderland slip back down into the drop zone with the prospect of a League Cup Final clearly having an effect on their performances recently.
Sunderland will go into the final hoping to emulate Wigan who beat Man city to cause an upset in the FA Cup final last season despite being massive underdogs. That is the blueprint for Poyet and the Sunderland players and on their day, the Black Cats have been something of a bogey side for the mega riches of Man City. That was the case earlier this season as Sunderland beat City 1-0 at the Stadium of Light which will surely give them some confidence ahead of this massive game.
Punters wanting to back Sunderland to win the League Cup Final in 90 minutes are looking at a juicy price of 10/1 with Bet Victor (the same odds Wigan were heading in to the FA Cup final), while backing them to win the trophy by any method might prove more value at 9/2 as the Mackems may fancy their chances more if they can take the game to extra time or penalties. Poyet will be hoping that Steven Fletcher can regain his scoring touch in front of goal, while Adam Johnson will also be key for the Black Cats as he looks to take revenge on his former club this weekend.
The League Cup is often seen as the poor relation when it comes to the domestic trophies in England but there is no doubting the importance of the Final this season. Man City are without question the team to beat and it is hard to think they won’t lift the trophy on Sunday, if they play anywhere near their best. It would be a major post for Pellegrini to lead City to the first trophy on offer and he will be hoping that a win this weekend can catapult them to more silverware over the coming months. Sunderland are likely to try and keep it tight at the back with the hope of nipping a goal as Wigan did in the FA Cup final last season, but the chances of lightning striking Man City twice in less than 12 months are slim to say the least.