Man City V Sunderland at Wembley Stadium : Match Preview

02 March 2014 12:07
Man City V Sunderland - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Hart prepared for final woe

Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart accepts he may have to sit out the Capital One Cup final.

But the England international insists he will be "man enough" to take it if Costel Pantilimon is preferred for Sunday's Wembley showpiece against Sunderland.

Hart lost his place to Pantilimon for a spell last November and December after a series of high-profile errors.

But since Hart re-established himself as number one towards the end of 2013, manager Manuel Pellegrini has reverted to his default practice of playing second-choice Pantilimon in domestic cup ties.

That means Hart could be left on the bench at Wembley, although Pellegrini has not yet made his selection public.

Hart told BBC's Football Focus: "I work hard every day to win, I work hard with every intention of winning and I understand it doesn't always go my way.

"I have got to be man enough to take that. I have got to be responsible for what goes on, for how I react and for how I conduct myself."

Pellegrini was asked which goalkeeper might start when he held his pre-match press conference in Manchester on Friday, but would not be drawn.

"I have already made my decision but unfortunately you cannot know it until Sunday," Pellegrini told reporters on day when he was also hit with a touchline ban by UEFA.

Pantilimon was also guarded when asked about his prospects of playing.

The Romanian said: "Only the manager can say this. I am like all the players, we are ready for this game."

Pellegrini did confirm that top scorer Sergio Aguero was fit again after five games out with a hamstring injury but was unsure whether the 26-goal forward would be ready to start.

Pellegrini said: "Of course it is very important for the team to have Sergio again with us because he is a very important player.

"We must see if he is 100 per cent to play the whole match."

Defender Matija Nastasic and striker Stevan Jovetic are the only players ruled out due to knee and hamstring injuries respectively.

Winger Adam Johnson believes Sunderland will have to beat the best team in the Barclays Premier League to seal Capital One Cup glory.

The Black Cats face Johnson's former employers Manchester City in the final of the competition at Wembley on Sunday with Pellegrini's men currently sitting in third place in the league table, three points adrift of leaders Chelsea but with a game in hand.

He has no doubts about the quality of the opposition he and his team-mates will face this weekend, but having played in City sides which have at times struggled to beat Sunderland, does not fear the challenge.

Johnson said: "For me, they have the best squad in the league by far and it's going to be difficult, we all know that.

"But we have beaten them once already this season and we have had quite a good record in recent years against them.

"I remember being in the City side a few times coming here and struggling, so hopefully it will be like that again.

"We all know it's a massive, massive task for us, but it's a cup final and so many times over the years, it's not as simple as everyone expects it to go."

Sunderland have, in fact, beaten City on each of their last four league visitors to Wearside, and came within five minutes of a famous victory at the Etihad Stadium in March 2012 when goals from Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov snatched a draw for the home side.

Johnson, who was introduced as a half-time substitute by then manager Roberto Mancini in that game, joined the Black Cats in a B#10million switch around five months later as owner Ellis Short spent big in a bid to end the club's seemingly perennial fight for top-flight survival.

The England international showed only flashes of his undoubted talent during his first season back in the north-east, but has blossomed once again under new head coach Gus Poyet to the extent that he scored seven goals in as many games in January and February.

Johnson's improvement went hand-in-hand with Sunderland's climb from the foot of the table, but he insists there is no secret to the progress made both individually and collectively.

He said: "It's just been down to hard work for both. It hasn't been one thing with me personally.

"With the team, we have been working on all sorts of different things really - our shape, our attacking, defending off the ball.

"We have just been slowly putting it together piece by piece and it has started to show in our performances.

"It's just been down to working hard on the training ground, really, because we have the players. It was just getting that out of them."

Source: PA