The 53rd League Cup final will take place at Wembley this Sunday, with Manchester City taking on Sunderland. Manchester City have had a relatively straight forward route to the final, with their 2-0 win away at Newcastle the toughest test before they went on to beat West ham 9-0 on aggregate in the semi-final. Sunderland, however, have overcome Chelsea, after being a goal down and beat City’s rivals, Manchester United, on penalties, after a dramatic second leg at Old Trafford.
The spirit the Sunderland players showed in the second half at Old Trafford was unbelievable. All eleven players put an extraordinary amount of effort into that game and I firmly believe, despite United’s ongoing woes, that the Black Cats can come up with the goods again, to stun Manchester City, and as we have seen in recent finals, shocks are not uncommon. Birmingham City overcame Arsenal 2-1 in 2011, and Cardiff City came very close to beating Liverpool a year later. Last year, Bradford City made the final, which was a huge shock in itself. So it’s by no means a certainty that City will lift the trophy.
Of course, City’s squad is superior to that of Sunderland. Take the striking options for example. City have four top quality internationals to choose from, with the returning Sergio Aguero a major boost for the Sky Blues, who are looking for their first trophy of a possible four this season. Sunderland do have Steven Fletcher back in their squad, but I am almost certain that its the defense and midfield where the battles will be won or lost for Gus Poyet’s side.
I’ve been very impressed by Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone who has been inspirational between the sticks this season, after been given the chance due to an injury to Kieron Westwood. He has most certainly aided Sunderland’s revival under Gus Poyet, who took over with the side when they were rock bottom of the league. Sunderland’s defense has also improved since the turn of the year, only conceding 10 Premier League goals, as well as progressing to the last eight of the FA Cup.
They will be looking at all 11 players to perform on Sunday, but as well as Mannone, John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Adam Johnson are the key players for the Black Cats. Johnson has been in superb form recently and will be looking to show Manchester City what they are missing after selling him to Sunderland two seasons ago. With a probable 4-5-1 formation, they will be looking at Johnson to produce the goods, as well as fulfilling his defensive duties.
So, City are rightly the odds-on favorites, but if the Black Cats can stick to their plans and frustrate City, there is no reason why an upset can’t be on the cards. On the other hand, an early goal for City will settle the nerves and another one-sided affair could also happen. I hope its an entertaining final and one that will be remembered in the history of the League Cup.