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Published on March 1st, 2014 | by Daniel Riordan

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“All set and ready to go” – Daniel Riordan (Guest Writer)

The 54th Football League Cup final gets underway on Sunday between our beloved blues and Sunderland. A final which hasn’t featured City since 1976 when Dennis Tueart’s 46th minute over head kick won us the cup. It’ll be City’s fourth appearance in the final, winning it in 1970, becoming runners up in 1974, before winning it as stated previously in 1976. Sunderland have only appeared once in the final back in 1985 where they were runners up to Norwich City after a Gordon Chisholm own goal in the 46th minute. But as times have changed at the club and in football in general, the cup won’t fail to let us down.

I don’t think this final will be a repeat of last year’s against Swansea and Bradford, which saw Swansea win 5-0. You can’t underestimate Sunderland because they have been successful against City on their own turf and not to mention they’ve knocked out Chelsea AND United. Gus Poyet has done a great job there so far regardless of being in the bottom three. The bottom of the table is so tight that it changes every week and I can’t see Sunderland going down with the team they’ve got and the manager they have. They were embarrassed by Di Canio. Sure he may of kept them up but he did them no favours other than winning the derby against Newcastle and against Everton. He bought a big clump of players which a lot have already been loaned out. They’re one of the most historical clubs in England and didn’t need to be embarrassed by Di Canio’s antics. However they’re a team that takes one step forward and two back. Poyet’s first game coinsidently was against City and they won 1-0 only to then go on 6 game streak without winning. I can only imagine them getting to the final is a break from reality on the league and from the past months.

January was a good month for them with getting 10 points out of a possible 12 and also knocking Manchester United out of the league cup in the semi-final. They’ve been getting results and learning a style of play under Poyet and there’s one player that I can only see haunting us – Adam Johnson. When we play against them, he’s always up for the occasion and puts a shift in. In recent performances he’s been their most consistent player and even picked up the player of the month for January.

City have been on a brilliant run in the league and the cup overall. In the last 15 they’ve only dropped 5 points and still have a game in hand. But it’s in the League Cup they’ve been the most impressive. 19 goals in just 5 rounds of the competition have put them as the highest scorers and only conceding 1. Getting revenge on Wigan, with a 5-0 thrashing, started their journey off. Trips to Newcastle (2-0) and Leicester (3-1) saw City confirmed in the semi-final against West Ham. The first leg near enough confirmed City were to be in the final after a 6-0 demolition, it was highly unlikely West Ham would score 7 at home in the second leg. City went on to win 3-0 in that leg with an overall aggregate of 9-0.

The league cup is put down a lot for whatever reason but it’s a cup. If you get it, you get a record broke from the last time you won it or if you’ve even won it at all. Last year was Swansea’s first ever cup. However there’s two sides to winning it. If you’re a team like Everton who are wanting to get back into Europe, it’s a cup you go for because it guarantees that. The only problem is for clubs less powerful as City is that you’ve got to compete in the Europa no matter what. Look at what it did to Newcastle last season and Swansea this year. Swansea looked fantastic for the past two years and a team that other teams feared to play. If Sunderland went on to win it, it would heap a whole lot more problems on for them next year. If they’re down the table at the moment, imagine how they’d be with the hindrance of the Europa. City should be comfortable enough to be in the top 4 this year and I still even tip them to win the league regardless of me being a City fan.

It’s been said already by players and the media but the players will still be hurting from last year. Kompany for me in particular who’s a born leader and a winner will still be gutted about last years result and will want to get back to winning ways at Wembley. I think last year the players were told that Mancini was going which wasn’t needed at the time, especially before a cup final but they let the fans down more than anything. The players lost it that day and I’m sure they’ll be wanting to repay the fans.

A key area which will fans will be questioning and I’ve seen it on twitter quite a lot is whether Pellegrini will stick with Pantillimon or go with Hart. Personally, I have faith in both keepers. Would Hart be more preferable to maintain winning the cup? or stick with Pantillimon who has only let one goal go in throughout the run? We saw Hart replace Pantillimon in the FA Cup final last year and it didn’t guarantee we were to win anything.

Another area is the defence. Lescott is the only player to have played every minute of the cup and he has to start in this game. I do to know why he’s not been picked in the league to partner Kompany and I’m gutted that it’s looking increasingly likely that he’ll be leaving at the end of the year. Although Demichelis has come under a lot of criticism, he’s become a bit of a scapegoat amongst the stands. He isn’t a bad defender and played well last week against Stoke and even played well up until the sending off against Barcelona. But I just think Lescott’s partnership is a lot better and more suited in this game.

It wouldn’t surprise me even if Pellegrini played Javi Garcia who has started to impress the fans lately. He’s had some great performances, putting himself into challenges and my confidence in him has gone sky high. Whenever he came on to seal the game off or just comes on in general, there would be a sarcastic cheer, a gasping sigh or a bellowed groan. Even with this whole season I only think he had a bit of trouble at the start of the year and mainly came on to finish the game. Not every Spanish player is going to be a Xavi or Iniesta. You’ve got to remember he’s under a new manager and is being told completely different tactics to his previous one. There’s a lot of inpatient fans and it’s starting to look that his 16 million tag is proving worth while.

You can’t pick a favourite in this tie no matter what league either club is in. Look at Liverpool in 2012, Cardiff played well against them which resulted in a penalty shoot out. Although the City are favourites by the bookies, you’ve always got to relate to our tie with Wigan because anything can happen. Personally I think City will be too strong for Sunderland and will come out on top. If Pellegrini picks the right team then the Cup will be coming back to Manchester. Sunderland can only set up two ways. How they’ve played a lot this year by having a solid defence and breaking on the counter attack near the end of the game or go at City. More than likely they’ll go for the defensive option because we’ve seen how it works out when teams try and run at us. The Arsenal and Spurs games justify that.

No matter what I’m certain this game won’t fail to impress. Similar to the Stoke final a few years ago, it looks like a proper final. Both teams haven’t featured in it as much as the likes of United, Arsenal, Liverpool etc. Both teams have a great fan base and are both historical clubs. I’ve mentioned it numerous times in this blog and you’re probably getting sick of seeing it but because of what happened last year with Wigan, there will always be this doubt from neutrals that City won’t win and a confidence boost opposition that they’ll do better. However I just think City and Pellegrini in particular will want the Cup a lot more. And if Aguero’s fit, it’ll only do us more favours.

– Daniel Riordan (Guest Writer)

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