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Prediction: Manchester City vs Sunderland

The shocking defeat to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final will be fresh in the players’ minds when Manchester City take on Sunderland in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley. The Black Cats are vying for the coveted trophy for the first time since 1985, and they go into the match in good spirits, having won four of last six matches in all competitions.

Manchester City have not exactly been firing on all cylinders of late, but they are still regarded hot favourites to pip Sunderland to the League Cup trophy. The Citizens were pretty unfortunate to have key players Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho pick up injuries at the time when the team were on top of their game and expected to continue the rich vein of form. The duo was evidently sorely missed in the Champions League clash against Barcelona, but while the Brazilian has already returned into action, the Argentine striker should be back to help his side win the first trophy in two years. Manchester City players were clearly affected by the disappointing loss to Barcelona, which saw them produce an under-par display against Stoke City, and no doubt they will be under pressure when they face Sunderland at Wembley. However, with the current side proving they can perform under pressure, I cannot see them missing out on the title this time. It is highly unlikely Manuel Pellegrini will be too concerned by injuries to Stevan Jovetic and Matija Nastasic now that Sergio Aguero has been deemed fit to play, and it is the Argentine superstar that is likely to prove the difference between the two sides.

Even if club chiefs surprised everyone when they sacked Paolo Di Canio just a couple of months into the new campaign, their decision proved spot on as Gus Poyet indeed helped the Black Cats realise their potential. Sunderland may still be in the Premier League relegation zone, but having picked up 10 points from last 6 league fixtures, they look they can quickly leave the bottom three. Team’s impressive Capital One Cup run is likely to provide a much needed boost in the relegation dogfight, but I seriously doubt they can surprise Manchester City in the final. The 4-1 defeat to Arsenal last weekend showed just how far away from England’s top sides the Black Cats are in terms of quality and even if they are likely to put up a good fight, this is clearly going to be an uphill task. The absence of a proven goalscorer is clearly the biggest issue at the moment, with Steven Fletcher’s campaign hindered by numerous injuries and his replacement Jozy Altidore netting just once in 24 league matches. Adam Johnson seems to be on top of his game at the moment, but Manuel Pellegrini will certainly look to counter the threat by fielding Gael Clichy on the left flank.

Conclusion

I cannot look past Manchester City here with the return of Sergio Aguero likely to give them that extra edge in attack they have missed over the last few weeks. Sunderland did well to go this far, but I seriously doubt they can ‘do a Wigan’ on their more illustrious opponents.

Verdict: Man City/Man City

Best Odds: 4/5

Bookmaker: bet365

Sat 1 March, 2014
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