The first piece of silverware of the season is up for grabs at Wembley this weekend as Manchester City take on Liverpool in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley (4.30pm Sunday on Sky Sports 1).
Man City are the bookmakers’ favourites to come out on top a few days after they took a giant step towards qualifying for the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time with a 3-1 first-leg victory over Dynamo Kiev.
City have underachieved domestically this season: a 5-1 defeat to Chelsea last weekend saw them exit the FA Cup, while they could end the weekend nine points adrift of top spot in the Premier League. They could give themselves a major lift as the end of the season approaches by getting their hands on the Capital One Cup trophy this weekend. Manuel Pellegrini, who will be replaced by Pep Guardiola in the summer, will be all too aware that this could be the last tournament he wins as Man City boss.
Jurgen Klopp is at the other end of his career at Liverpool having only taken charge at Anfield in early October. The German will therefore be looking to claim his first piece of silverware in English football on Sunday, with the cup competitions now representing Liverpool’s best chance of success. The Reds are nine points adrift of the Champions League places in the Premier League table. The 1-0 aggregate victory over Augsburg in the Europa League round of 32 saw Liverpool progress to the last 16 on Thursday, but it is the Capital One Cup that they will be targeting as the most realistic opportunity to secure another addition to the trophy cabinet.
Both sides have been inconsistent in 2016, with City winning seven, drawing two and losing four of their 13 matches in all competitions this year, and Liverpool winning five, drawing five and losing five of their 15. The wins the pair picked up in Europe in recent days will have lifted self-belief and confidence in both camps, with Liverpool and City now presumably raring to go ahead of Sunday’s showpiece.
Man City will be unable to call upon Fabian Delph (calf), Jesus Navas (hamstring), Wilfried Bony (shin), Kevin De Bruyne (knee) and Samir Nasri (hamstring) as they attempt to win the competition for the fourth time in their history – and for only the second time since 1976. It was notable how much better a City side containing all five members of the spine of goalkeeper Joe Hart, centre-back Vincent Kompany, midfielder Yaya Toure, playmaker David Silva and striker Sergio Aguero looked in Wednesday’s win over Dynamo Kiev in the first leg of their round of 16 Champions League clash, with the quintet likely to be fielded together once more on Sunday afternoon.
Liverpool, meanwhile, are likely to be without Adam Lallana (calf), Martin Skrtel (hamstring), Danny Ings (knee), Joe Gomez (knee), Jordan Rossiter (hamstring) and Joe Allen (hamstring), the man who converted the decisive spot-kick in the second leg of his side’s semi-final victory over Stoke. Defender Dejan Lovren should be available again after illness, with striker Daniel Sturridge likely to start for the eight-time winners in the Capital One Cup for only the second time this season.
Our Preview’s Capital One Cup Betting Tips Verdict
Manchester City’s superior quality should see them emerge victorious in Sunday’s final, although Liverpool – who thrashed Pellegrini’s men 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season – should certainly not be written off.
This preview believes that goals are likely, so a 3-1 City triumph looks a very good value betting tips selection, while Raheem Sterling (pictured) could also be worth backing to get his name on the scoresheet against his former employers. Over 3.5 goals is another bet that looks tempting ahead of Sunday’s final between two teams who are far better going forward than they are at the back.