Man City Must Take Advantage of Easiest Capital One Cup Run They Will Ever Get

Phil Keidel@@PhilKeidelContributor IIFebruary 28, 2014


"I would say I want to win five trophies in the next five years," said Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano last May, according to Paul Chronnell of the Guardian.

That was the daunting trophy mandate Manuel Pellegrini received on taking over at the Etihad.

Pellegrini's first real trophy test comes against Sunderland in the Capital One Cup final. While it is not "the Champions League, the Premier League or the FA Cup" as Soriano specified back then, it is a prize that City have not won since 1976.

Pellegrini will probably never get another chance to claim a trophy for City this easily again.

City's schedule is packed with difficult matches against great sides in the Champions League and the Premier League. Somehow, though, their Capital One Cup draw turned out to be a cupcake parade.

Seriously...look at this:

Sep 24: Manchester City 5-0 Wigan Athletic 

Oct 30: Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester City 

Dec 17: Leicester City 1-3 Manchester City 

Jan 8: Manchester City 6-0 West Ham United (first leg)

Jan 21: West Ham United 0-3 Manchester City (second leg)

Mar 2: Manchester City v Sunderland

West Ham were overrun at the Etihad.
West Ham were overrun at the Etihad.Jon Super/Associated Press

The American football movie Any Given Sunday takes its name from the idea that, despite apparent talent disparities, any team of professionals can beat another one with the right effort on the right day.

Had the people who made that movie seen City's Capital One Cup run, though, they may have torn the script in half.

City conceded one goal in three matches before reaching the semi-final tie with West Ham United. In two cracks at City, the Hammers came up goalless.

This is what happens when an elite team like City receives a draw with two Championship sides and two mid-table Premier League clubs, some of whom could not afford to field their strongest sides in a lesser cup competition.

While City waltzed through their draw, these improbable events occurred:

  • Chelsea and Arsenal drew each other in the round of 16, ensuring that one will be eliminated, while Fulham beat Everton in the same round
  • Sunderland remarkably knocked out Chelsea
  • West Ham United took out Tottenham Hotspur
  • Sunderland even more remarkably won a tie over two legs against Manchester United, on penalty kicks, at Old Trafford

Sunderland may feel like a team of destiny, and they did beat City in their only meeting so far this season.

But they have lost two of their last three matches, conceding four at Arsenal (not surprising) and getting blanked at the Stadium of Light by Hull City (quite surprising).

City's recent form is similarly uninspiring, but they are unbeaten in their last three matches against teams who are not Barcelona.

Someone is out there saying "hey, City lost the FA Cup to Wigan Athletic last May...they could totally lose to Sunderland." 

One thing has nothing to do with the other there.

The City side that took to the pitch at Wembley against Wigan Athletic last spring was in full revolt against soon-to-be-sacked Roberto Mancini.

How close can one come to saying City intentionally lost that match to guarantee that Mancini would be fired, without actually saying it? Because it certainly felt like that at the time.

Under Pellegrini, all of those awful vibes have gone and the club remains (barely) alive for the quadruple. The first trophy they can win with Pellegrini running things is the Capital One Cup.

Pellegrini had better find a way to win this first trophy.

Because he is unlikely to ever travel so smooth and paved a road as this to a trophy final again.


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