Man City are clear favourites to win the first trophy of the English season when they square off against Sunderland in the final of the Capital One League Cup at Wembley on Sunday (14:00 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
City come into the final on the back of a slight stumble in form, which has seen them lose two and draw one of their last five matches, but are generally enjoying a very good season. They are third in the Premier League table with 57 points from 18 wins, three draws and five defeats.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side progressed to the final courtesy of victories over Wigan, Newcastle, Leicester City and West Ham, defeating the last-mentioned 9-0 on aggregate over the two legs of their semi final. Pellegrini is yet to win a trophy in nearly 10 years in European football and will see Sunday’s match as the ideal opportunity to get the ball rolling.
The Citizens have, along with Liverpool, been the great entertainers of the Premier League this season, with matches involving them averaging 3.69 goals. That average is largely made up of goals scored, with Pellegrini’s side having averaged 2.65 per match. They have scored 118 goals in all competitions this season, including 19 in six Capital One League Cup ties.
Man City have at times come unstuck due to defensive mistakes, most recently in their home Champions League defeat to Barcelona, but their general dominance of the ball means they rarely give up good quality chances to opponents, having conceded fewer penalty area shots on target than any other side in the Premier League this season.
Pellegrini will be glad to welcome back top scorer Sergio Aguero (pictured above) for Sunday’s match, with City having scored just three times in five matches during his absence with a hamstring injury. Matija Nastasic (knee) and Stevan Jovetic (hamstring) are both unlikely to make the squad.
This final gives Sunderland a respite from their fight against relegation from the Premier League, a cause not helped by defeats in each of their last two league matches. They are 18th in the table, with 24 points from six wins, six draws and 14 defeats.
The Black Cats advanced to the final by virtue of victories over MK Dons, Peterborough, Southampton, Chelsea and, on penalties after a 3-3 aggregate draw, Manchester United. Gustavo Poyet has the opportunity to secure his first trophy as a coach just four and a half months after taking over at Sunderland following four years at Brighton.
Poyet inherited a side low on both morale and quality when he replaced Paulo Di Canio in mid-October. He has done a solid job of restoring the former while introducing a more possession-based style of play. Sunderland are more compact and better organised than prior to his arrival, with a big improvement in goals conceded per match (1.37, down from 2.29).
Scoring has been a major problem for Sunderland throughout the season. Adam Johnson heads their league scoring chart with seven goals, but no other player has scored more than three. Big-money signing Jozy Altidore has just two in 32 appearances in all competitions and Poyet desperately needs January signing Ignacio Scocco to step up to the plate.
Steven Fletcher (achilles) could return to Poyet’s starting line-up after more than a month on the sidelines, while Wes Brown is likely to replace Santiago Vergini in defence after serving a two-match ban. Liam Bridcutt is cup-tied after appearing in the competition for Brighton earlier this season.
Man City v Sunderland Betting Tips Verdict
Sunderland won 1-0 when these sides met in the league at the Stadium of Light earlier this season, extending their run of home league victories over City to four matches. There have been four wins for Sunderland, four for City and two draws in their last 10 meetings. City won this competition twice in the seventies, while Sunderland were runners up in 1985.
City are the clear bookies’ favourites for this match and certainly have the necessary firepower to suggest that Sunderland will have a hard time keeping them from scoring. They will, however, have to be wary of over confidence, with last season’s FA Cup final defeat to Wigan a clear example of what could happen if they do not give the match their full attention.
Sunderland have achieved some highly credible results against stronger sides this season, defeating Chelsea and Manchester United on route to Wembley and City and Everton in the league, suggesting Poyet is good at setting up his team to face heavily-favoured opponents. They have little to lose and will not be found wanting for effort.
- Man City are the favourites, and rightfully so, but we do not expect the winning margin to be huge. Therefore, back Sunderland +2 on an Asian Handicap at 11/20 with Bet365. The bet pays out if they win, draw or lose by one goal. Your stake is returned if they lose by two.
- Aguero has scored in each of his last eight matches and has scored an incredible 26 goals in 25 appearances in all competitions this season. Back Sergio Aguero to score at anytime @ best odds of 8/11 with Bet365 or Coral.