Manchester City

How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Sunderland

FILE PHOTO - EDITORS NOTE: COMPOSITE OF TWO IMAGES - Image Numbers 453560903 (L) and 178918536) In this composite image a comparison has been made between Sunderland manager Gus Poyet (L) and Manuel Pellegrini manager of Manchester City. Manchester City and Sunderland meet in the Capital One Final on March 2,2014 at Wembley Stadium.
***LEFT IMAGE*** SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Gus Poyet, manager of Sunderland looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Chelsea at Stadium of Light on December 4, 2013 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)  ***RIGHT IMAGE***  MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31: Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Hull City at the Etihad Stadium on August 31, 2013 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Rob PollardFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2014

The League Cup may have been disparaged in some quarters, but for Manuel Pellegrini and Manchester City it represents their first opportunity for success this season. They play Sunderland in the final at Wembley on Sunday with the memory of their shock defeat to Wigan in last season’s FA Cup still fresh in their memory. Only a win will do this time around.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Yaya Toure of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal with his team-mates during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Stoke City at the Etihad Stadium on February 22, 2014 in Manches
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Pellegrini has a few selection dilemmas for the game. No player wants to miss being part of a showpiece final but, of course, some will be disappointed.

One area where the City manager has a particularly tricky decision is in goal. Costel Pantilimon, who has played in the majority previous rounds, was thought likely to start, however, something about Pellegrini’s body language when asked at his press conference in Carrington on Friday suggested he may be ready to play Joe Hart.

There’s a strong argument that it would be harsh on Pantilimon to be dropped after getting City to Wembley, but with Pellegrini in touching distance of his first major trophy since he left South America in 2004, the temptation to pick his best goalkeeper may prove too strong.

Pablo Zabaleta will almost certainly start at right-back, given he is fully fit and playing well while his understudy, Micah Richards, struggles for form.

Much like Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany is firmly the No. 1 in his position, will start at centre-back and captain the side. Alongside him is likely to be Martin Demichelis, although his suspension for the second leg of the Champions League last 16 tie with Barcelona—which means Joleon Lescott will start at the Nou Camp—could see him tempted to give the Englishman game time.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Yaya Toure of Manchester City runs away to celebrate after scoring the winning goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Stoke City at the Etihad Stadium on February 22, 2014 in Mancheste
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Left-back has been rotated fairly evenly all season, but with Adam Johnson providing one of Sunderland's biggest attacking threats, Pellegrini would be wise to pick Gael Clichy given he is better defensively. Aleksandar Kolarov may have improved in an attacking sense this season, but he remains suspect going toward his own goal.

In the midfield, Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, when fit, pick themselves. They are the best centre-midfield partnership in the league and will very likely start together on Sunday. In the wide positions, with Samir Nasri and David Silva available, they will start, with James Milner and Jesus Navas on the bench if needed.

Sergio Aguero is back and available for the game but may not be considered from the start. He has between now and kick-off to prove his fitness. If Pellegrini feels there is any risk to his hamstring, he will play a reduced role. Alvaro Negredo will play, and, with Stevan Jovetic injured, Edin Dzeko will feature.

Predicted Line-up:

Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Toure, Nasri, Silva, Negredo and Aguero.


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: @RobPollard_.

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