While there are some sterling Premiership games this weekend, there’s no doubt that all eyes are going to be on the Carling Cup final. Most of the time, Manchester City would be pencilled as absolute favourites, but with Sunderland being one of the few sides to take points off City this term this match could be very interesting indeed.
Everybody keeps talking about Manchester City’s potential quadruple, and this will prove to be the first opportunity that Manuel Pellegrini has to lay his hands on some silverware. It would be fair to say that there have been several stutters in the build-up to the clash, with City suffering defeats to the likes of Chelsea and Barcelona, as well as dropping two points against Norwich. Their last victory over Stoke was hardly convincing, but it at least gives them a solid foundation to approach this final with. Pellegrini has already said that the defeat in last year’s FA Cup final should act as motivation this time around, although it remains to be seen whether the players get caught up in their recent muddled form.
On paper, this should be as straightforward for City as it gets – with opponents Sunderland in a real relegation scrap as they occupy 18th spot in the division. It all looked so much more positive for the Black Cats several weeks ago as well, with Gus Poyet’s side actually knocking on the door of the mid-table positions following a sterling set of results that seemed to end their relegation woes. However, after suffering successive defeats to Hull and Arsenal, they’re back in the mire and Poyet has already labelled this clash as being much bigger than their league exploits. It was only mid-November that the Stadium of Light outfit overcame their opponents and having also kept a clean sheet in that outing, it will be interesting to see how they react to the same game in front of the Wembley stage.
Manchester City have been handed a huge boost ahead of the final, with Sergio Aguero set to make a long-awaited return from the hamstring issue that has prevented him from playing during recent weeks. Aguero’s return will make up for the absence of Matija Nastasic and Stevan Jovetic, who are both still struggling on the treatment table. Sunderland on the other hand won’t be able to call upon January signing Liam Bridcutt, with the midfielder ineligible having represented his former club in a previous round. However, other than Kieren Westwood who is on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, Gus Poyet has no fresh concerns.
Sunderland may have caused a scalp several months ago, and Manchester City might not be in their best form, but we still expect the Blues to rise to the occasion this weekend. They have much better quality on paper and while Sunderland will make a game of it, our tip will be a 3-1 victory for Manuel Pellegrini’s side.