League Cup final preview - Manchester City v Sunderland
The Capital One Cup final presents Manchester City with their first shot at silverware this season, a stark contrast to the scenario facing their Geordie opponents. It could be Sunderland's only opportunity for decades to end their 41 year wait for a major trophy.
The Black Cats have worked laboriously to charter a Wembley date, their first since 1988 when they were defeated in the Championship play-off 7-6 on penalties to Charlton. Gus Poyet's side have found solace in the cup competitions, beating Chelsea and Manchester United on their way to Wembley and recently advancing to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, a welcome respite from what has been a campaign blighted by misery.
However, the might of Manchester City stand in the Mackems's way of causing a major shock below the magnificent Wembley arch, a possibility City are familiar with after their last-gasp loss to Wigan in last season's FA Cup final, resulting in the sacking of Roberto Mancini and the arrival of the man who will take his place in English football's most coveted dug-out seat and attempt to seal his first silverware as manager.
However strange it may seem, considering his tenure at Real Madrid where trophies are common-place, Manuel Pellegrini is yet to win a major trophy during his managerial career, with the Intertoto Cup at Villarreal his only experience of glory. Sunday presents the Chilean with an opportunity to secure his first of the season, with a record quadruple triumph still viable, but hinging on whether the Etihad outfit can overturn a two-goal deficit at the Camp Nou in the Champions League last 16.
City have scored 118 goals in 42 games this season, a stat which is sure to instill concern into the ardent Sunderland faithful. However, the Black Cats can take solace in the fact that they are one of four sides ( Stoke, Chelsea, Norwich and Barcelona ) which have thwarted City's potent attacking force from scoring as they secured a victory over Pellegrini's aesthetically pleasing team in early November, thanks to Phil Bardsley's goal that day.
Poyet's game-plan worked a delight that day as the Uruguayan successfully plotted City's downfall. He accepted that his opponents would have more of the ball and instructed his packed midfield to retreat to the half-way line to form a compact resistance. The former Chelsea man will have to produce another managerial masterclass if he is to join the likes of FA Cup-winning manager Bob Stokoe and Ian Porterfield in Sunderland folklore.
And as the Mackems support trend #daretodream on Twitter, it is certainly something they'll have to do on the pitch if they are to end their 41 year wait for silverware.
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