Capital One Cup 2014: Predicting Top Stars for Manchester City vs. Sunderland

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Capital One Cup 2014: Predicting Top Stars for Manchester City vs. Sunderland
Jon Super/Associated Press
Will Sunderland fans see a little more of this at Wembley?

As Sunderland prepare to take on Manchester City in the Black Cats' first cup final in 22 years, we take a look at who could provide the pivotal plays for both sides at Wembley Stadium.

Manchester City are well-versed in playing in finals at the national stadium after beating Stoke City to FA Cup glory in 2011 before losing out to Wigan Athletic in the same competition last season.

The Citizens have already claimed two League Cup victories after picking up the trophy in 1970 and 1976, and given last year's cup final agony, Manuel Pellegrini's men will be sure to avoid complacency this time out.

Sunderland, managed by Gus Poyet, will also have an agenda as he looks to secure the club's first piece of silverware in more than two decades to offer as a welcome distraction from Premier League form.

But who could be the big movers and shakers on cup final day? 

 

Manchester City:

Jon Super/Associated Press
City skipper Vincent Kompany looks on as City miss out last year.

One thing that has remained apparent for City this season, especially in the cup, is the prominence of their strike force.

During the side's five games leading up to the final, 15 of the Citizens' 22 goals have been scored by those leading the line for Pellegrini's side.

 

Alvaro Negredo

The 28-year-old Spaniard, who signed from Sevilla in the summer, has made an immediate impact on the Capital One Cup with six goals in just two starts and two appearances off the bench, scoring goals of quality as shown below:

Five goals across two semi-final legs against West Ham United helped his side into the final, and with three goals away from the City of Manchester Stadium, it leaves Negredo as City's joint-top away goalscorer with Edin Dzeko in this competition—imperative to continue, if the side are to celebrate victory on Wembley Way.

But it's not just for his club side that the striker will be looking to impress, as he looks to make his way into Spain's World Cup squad after continuing his impressive form since joining from the Spanish outfit in July.

 

Edin Dzeko

Matt Dunham/Associated Press
Will Dzeko continue his march along the goal trail?

Largely unused this season, Dzeko has managed to keep his head above the parapet for City in the League Cup this season and, with each round, show the City manager just why he deserves to start at Wembley.

The Bosnian frontman has, like Negredo, netted three away goals in the competition and has scored in all but one round as the side have progressed into the final.

According to StatCity's tweet, Dzeko could also break into the City all-time League Cup scoring charts with a goal at Wembley:

Even more impressive when you realise that the only reason that Dzeko didn't net in the second leg at Upton Park was because he remained an unused substitute. It shows that in every match he has featured in this competition, he's scored at least one goal—not bad form to take into the final, right?

Unlike Negredo, who has yet to taste life at Wembley with City, that's not the case for Dzeko who has been on the winning and losing end of cup fever with the Manchester side, and will be looking to secure his third piece of silverware against Sunderland.

 

Sunderland:

SCOTT HEPPELL/Associated Press
Sunderland fans set for first trip to re-built Wembley Stadium

If you take away the Black Cats' Premier League form this year—they sit in 18th position and firmly in a relegation dogfight—there are signs for optimism for Sunderland supporters.

The side have seen off two Football League sides during the earlier stages, as well as scraping through against Southampton in the fourth round.

However, from there, Poyet's side have shown resilience and character to overcome Chelsea and two legs against Manchester United as they prepare to take on the Red Devils' fierce rivals in London.

 

Fabio Borini

Scott Heppell/Associated Press
GOAL! Borini celebrates his strike against Chelsea.

If Sunderland have one man to thank for reaching the final, Borini should be one of the first names on the honors' list.

The striker, on loan from Liverpool, netted an 88th-minute equaliser for his side against Chelsea to take the match to extra time, with Borini then on hand to supply Ki Sung-Yueng with the opportunity to guide his side into the semi-final.

A man on a mission, the Italian striker will be looking to justify his move away from Roma for Merseyside in 2012, signed by Brendan Rodgers as he looked to make an impact in England after stints with Chelsea and Swansea.

He's certainly on the right track to do that, after hitting two goals in this year's competition, whilst proving that his creative style of forward play is imperative to creating the side's chances as they look to re-write history.

 

Adam Johnson

Scott Heppell/Associated Press
Point to prove: Johnson out for place in Brazil.

The Sunderland winger has proved, especially this season, that he deserves his place among England's elite this summer.

The former Middlesbrough man scored during the side's 4-2 win at home to MK Dons in the second round and has played a pivotal role in guiding his side into the match against City.

And the ex-City man spoke with the Guardian's Ewan Murray about leaving the City of Manchester Stadium in 2012, to join a side where he would "feel loved:"

I loved it at City. It's a great club and but for the circumstances I would still be there now. You want to win medals and I did that there. Looking back, I would still have signed and would do it again.

I was disappointed the way it ended. I wanted to go and play more games. I was not asking to play every week – I knew I couldn't – I just asked to play one in four. It was as simple as that. I did not mind playing once every couple of weeks.

It just wasn't a fair share. I was not expecting to play every minute of every game and I always knew that. It was just more the fact that it wasn't getting shared around enough.

So I wanted to play somewhere I could play week in, week out and feel more loved.

Johnson also heaped praise on Poyet's care of him since the Italian's arrival and added that Sunderland have nothing to lose as they go into the final as underdogs:

I think it's just down to hard work, not just for me personally but the team has been working on all sorts of things; shape, tactics, defending off the ball and just slowly putting piece by piece together.

I think the manager has got us playing together better as a team and when you're playing better as a team the individuals come into the game more. We have had the ball a lot more than we have done in the last probably eight months. Under the gaffer we have controlled matches more than we've been controlled.

With City we were expected to win. With Sunderland this year, we're not. The fans of City are wanting that success every year, without doubt. They're disappointed if they're not winning two and three trophies. At Sunderland it's been amazing for us to get to the final full stop after so long. I think the fans are delighted.

I've seen texts and they're just delighted to be having a day out at Wembley. On the other hand, the City fans are expecting this now so it's different. It's a different sort of pressure.

Having been on both sides of it, we're going there with nothing to lose. We can go and play with freedom and try and win the game. If City don't win the game it will be a massive failure for them, won't it?

Johnson, who looks likely to start for Poyet at Wembley, knows that the cup final will provide the perfect opportunity to prove to England manager Roy Hodgson that he deserves his place on the plane to Rio this summer.

With a point to prove to England fans, as well as former City manager Roberto Mancini, the winger will be looking to show his credentials for the North-East side with the world watching.

 

Prediction:

I've seen many cup finals in my time and have spent plenty of time at Wembley watching my side (no spoilers as to who, I'm afraid), and for Sunderland fans, who have yet to taste life at the national stadium, the 31,500 supporters making the trip to London will savor the experience.

On occasions such as this, you've got to give full credit to both sides on reaching the crunch point of the competition, and for Sunderland, you certainly can't write off any ambitions of overcoming City.

How will the game be won at Wembley?

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In the league, the gulf in league position is clear for all to see, but the magic of any cup competition and the Black Cats' form against Chelsea and Manchester United show that they will be tough to beat.

City will still be hurting from FA Cup embarrassment against Wigan last season, with many of the squad who lost on that day still at the club.

If they are to make amends this time around, though, they will need to keep their estimations high and their work rate higher.

But something tells me that Sunderland fans will be toasting cup success at the full-time whistle, and I've got a feeling that Borini may well be the man to bring silverware to the Stadium of Light.

Manchester City 1-2 Sunderland.

You can follow me on Twitter @DanBrett90, for more insight, analysis and predictions from the beautiful game.

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