In an interview with David McDonnell in the Mirror, Samir Nasri has warned his Manchester City teammates that a League Cup final defeat to Sunderland could have far-reaching consequences in the latter stages of their season.
City face their bogey team at Wembley on Sunday, and Nasri feels avoiding an upset similar to the one they suffered at the hands of Wigan in the FA Cup final last May is vital.
Nasri was part of the Arsenal side that lost the League Cup final to Birmingham in 2011, a result which appeared to damage the North London side psychologically and led to a dramatic collapse in form. Arsenal went into the game still fighting on four fronts, but the defeat saw them win just three of their remaining matches, as they ended the season empty-handed.
I don’t have good memories in the cups, because I lost the final with Arsenal as well as last season.
We got to the final with Arsenal and lost. After that, we won only two games in the league, so a win would be really important for us and for the confidence.
Nasri's experience should serve as a warning against complacency in the build-up to the game.
It's a vitally important match for City. They will want to avoid an Arsenal-style collapse, and it also offers them an opportunity to return to trophy-winning ways after a barren season in 2012-13.
The habit of winning is something City's owners crave, and the League Cup offers them their first opportunity to rectify the loss to Wigan that saw last season end in bitter disappointment.
And for Manuel Pellegrini it's a chance to win his inaugural trophy as City boss and his first major piece of silverware as a manager in Europe.
The big news for City is the return of Sergio Aguero, who will start full training on Tuesday and will surely have a good chance of starting the final with a few days training behind him. He has been a huge loss since he sustained an injury in the win over Spurs at White Hart Lane.
City's strikers have misfired somewhat in his absence, with the match against Stoke on Saturday notable for the insipid nature of their attack.
Edin Dzeko faced flack for a poor display and a memorable miss from three yards out, and his partner Alvaro Negredo was withdrawn before the hour mark after struggling to influence the City's play in any meaningful way.
Pellegrini turned to Stevan Jovetic in an attempt to liven things up at the top end of the field, but yet another muscular injury saw him limp off just 13 minutes after his arrival.
Aguero's return is a timely one.
Why Man City need Aguero fit and firing asap: Dzeko has had 25 shots in his last six matches, with only three hitting the target.— Matthew Stanger (@MatthewStanger) February 24, 2014
City now face a run of three games in three different competitions, the first time that's happened in the club's history. After Sunday's League Cup final, they face Wigan at home in the FA Cup quarter-final seven days later, before travelling to Barcelona for the second leg of their last-16 tie where they will attempt to overturn a two-goal deficit.
Which means by the time City play their next league match away at Hull City, they could find themselves nine points behind Chelsea, who play Fulham away and Tottenham at home in the intervening period, and already have a three-point advantage, albeit having played an extra game.
No doubt Jose Mourinho will be stressing the importance of moving nine points clear to put City under severe pressure to win their three games in hand.
For now, though, City's cup involvement takes priority, and Sunday's final is more than a chance for City to add a major trophy—it's an opportunity to increase momentum going into the final stages of the season.
A defeat could have debilitating effects. Just ask Samir Nasri.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.
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