Manchester City vs. Sunderland: Predictions for Key Stars

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Manchester City vs. Sunderland: Predictions for Key Stars
Jon Super/Associated Press
Sergio Aguero starts for Manchester City.

As Manchester City and Sunderland prepare to lock horns in the Capital One Cup final, here is a look at how both sides' stars could win the 2014 trophy for their respective teams.

Sergio Aguero starts for City after a one-month absence through injury, and he will provide a welcome boost for Manuel Pellegrini, as he partners the Argentinian striker up front with Edin Dzeko.

Martin Demichelis also starts in the heart of the Citizens' defence alongside Vincent Kompany, with Costel Pantilimon continuing between the sticks.

As for Sunderland, who line up with their customary 4-2-3-1 formation, it's up to Fabio Borini to lead the line with support from advanced midfielders Adam Johnson, Jack Colback and Ki.

Former Manchester United pair Wes Brown and John O'Shea will be charged with keeping out City's string of attacking options, as well as penalty hero Vito Mannone, who saw his side through to the final after a penalty shootout against City's Manchester rivals.

But who could steal the show for either side?

 

Manchester City

Jon Super/Associated Press

The inclusion of Sergio Aguero in Pellegrini's starting side will give fans real hope that he can muster the guile and influence to give his side the edge at Wembley.

The striker, who lead's City's goalscoring charts with 15 goals this season in just 17 Premier League appearances, returns to the squad and partners Edin Dzeko up top. The Bosnian striker has netted on seven occasions himself this term.

But with a long injury lay-off, which has seen the striker's match fitness reduced, he will be sluggish and out of touch with his own goalscoring prowess going into the match.

But Bleacher Report's Rob Dawson thinks that Aguero's return could match that of his lay-off earlier in the season:

Expectation will be rife for Aguero to net at Wembley, and given the striker's pedigree, it's a fair bet that he'll have plenty of chances to get back into his scoring ways.

But with reduced match practice over the last month, and the weight of expectation bearing down on his shoulders, Aguero will have to settle with just an assist for Edin Dzeko, as the Bosnian striker increases his goal tally.

But that's not all for City. Fernandinho starts in his first cup final and will be looking to make his mark and earn his first trophy as a Manchester City player.

The Brazilian, who has adapted quickly to life in the Premier League, has scored three goals in his debut season at the City of Manchester Stadium. His slick style of football and forward-thinking play will see him as a perfect complement to Yaya Toure, who he partners in the middle of the park.

Toure, the more combative of the two, will sit deeper than Fernandinho and offer him the platform to show his true talents. 

He will have plenty of chances on goal, too, as City look to put pressure on Sunderland's two holding players. He'll be the man to get the goals for City today as he knows that the pressure is on to make Brazil's World Cup squad.

Kompany will have plenty of chances from corners to get on the scoresheet, a familiar sight for the Belgian defender. But Sunderland's experience in defence will see Kompany's chances restricted and the City captain will remain goalless. 

 

Sunderland

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

For Sunderland, Fabio Borini leads the line and it will be up to him to not only present himself in poaching positions in and around the box but also to provide the hold-up and link-up play to bring the trio of Johnson, Colback and Ki into the fold.

The on-loan Liverpool man has played a pivotal role in the Capital One Cup this season, with a dramatic 88th-minute equaliser at home to Chelsea, while also providing a timely assist for Ki to send the side through in extra time.

Borini, who played for Chelsea and fellow Premier League side Swansea, scored the winning penalty against Manchester United at Old Trafford to see his side through to the final. He will now have to prove his worth once again at Wembley if his side are to win the trophy.

The Italian forward has already put one Manchester side to the sword this season and, knowing that he struggled with life at Liverpool, he has it all to prove on the big stage.

Kompany's presence alongside Demichelis will offer City fans little belief, though, with Demichelis' slugglish style providing the perfect foil for the speedy Borini to get into good positions.

Given Borini's mentality, too, he'll score. His ability to out-muscle big defenders is exciting for such a nimble player but, with Demichelis in the squad, Borini will find his way around the big, sluggish defender and net for the Black Cats.

Ki will also try his luck as he sits just off of Borini in midfield, and he will be the man to supply the winning goal as Adam Johnson fires home the winner against his former side.

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Johnson will hope that his winning goal earns him a place in Roy Hodgson's England squad for the World Cup. The former City winger slid down the pecking order under Roberto Mancini's stewardship, and he left the club in search of new beginnings.

Despite seeing his side struggling in Premier League this year, he has played a pivotal role in the Capital One Cup and told The Guardian's Ewan Murray that pressure is firmly on his former side:

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.

Johnson's goal tally, currently standing at seven goals this season from his berth on the wing, shows that he is good value for a goal in any match.

This was proven with his hat-trick against Fulham in Sunderland's 4-1 win at Craven Cottage. He has stepped up to the plate this season, especially since Gus Poyet's arrival at the club.

Wembley will provide a perfect backdrop for Johnson to showcase his potential to Hodgson, as well as suitors who will be looking to poach his talents if Sunderland fail to survive in the league.

A goal for the winger will put no downward slant on his mesmerizing form, and neither will his potential to score from a set piece.

 

Conclusion

A win would provide a welcome boost for both sides as they look to battle on for the rest of the season.

City are still in the hunt in four competitions, and they will be looking for victory today as a springboard for success in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.

Meanwhile, Gus Poyet knows that a win against City could give his side the impetus to carry on into their own league campaign and give his side an extra edge in the fight for survival.

But every underdog has its day and, especially at Wembley, there's every chance that Sunderland could cause an upset.

Given the side's league form, too, it's fair to expect the Black Cats to see the game as a welcome distraction and pick up a giant-killing victory.

Sunderland will  bag a couple to put a glossy finish on the Black Cats' fans' big day in the sun.

 

Teams (courtesy of Sky Sports):

Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov; Nasri, Toure, Fernandinho, Silva; Dzeko, Aguero. Subs: Hart, Lescott, Milner, Negredo, Garcia, Navas, Clichy.

Manonne; Bardsley, Brown, O'Shea, Alonso; Larson, Cattermole; Johnson, Ki, Colback; Borino. Subs: Gardner, Fletcher, Celustka, Giaccherini, Vergini, Scocco, Ustari.

 

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