Although the Capital One Cup Semi-Finals are an all-Premier League affair, there are still plenty of interesting stories in the mix.
Both West Ham and Sunderland are two names that have been associated with the very pinnacle of English football for some time, but neither has won the League Cup in their history. It may be a slight shock to hear this, but it’s true. However, one team could break that duck in the Capital One Cup this season.
Sunderland are certainly in the stronger position of the two, with the Black Cats having registered an impressive home win against Manchester United in the first leg. Fabio Borini’s second-half penalty at the Stadium of Light has really put the tie in the balance heading to Old Trafford, with Gus Poyet’s men in with a genuine chance of making it to Wembley.
The North East side will be aware that David Moyes’ Red Devils are far from the force that claimed the Premier League title last season, with many outfits having already travelled to the Theatre of Dreams this term before leaving with a win. And despite their struggles, Sunderland are in good shape to steal a result, with a number of their layers having put early season bad form behind them to help secure a number of more positive results.
The aforementioned Borini looks rejuvenated under Poyet, while goalkeeper Vito Mannone has proved himself to be a talented glovesman in recent weeks. As well as youth and flair, the Black Cats also have experience, with John O’Shea possessing a medal collection that many top, top players would envy and also a detailed knowledge of United after enjoying, arguably, the best spell of career at the club.
West Ham are certainly not in a desirable position as they prepare to host Manchester City. The Hammers were mauled at the Etihad Stadium 6-0, and it will take a truly Herculean task to overhaul such a scoreline, but anything is possible in football. With Andy Carroll returning to full fitness the Irons finally have the striker to suit their playing style, and in Ravel Morrison an unpredictable talent is also in the ranks. Having trounced Tottenham at White Hart Lane earlier this season they have shown that the potential for goals and success against the big boys is possible, which could give Big Sam’s side a sense of optimism.
However, Sunderland are the more likely of the sides to make it to Wembley, and they should not be put off by the prospect of facing City. Although Manuel Pellegrini’s side are favourites to claim the league title this term, form and ability can often be levelled out in a showpiece Final. Last season the Citizens took on Wigan in the FA Cup – who were relegated to the Championship – and were defeated by them at Wembley. Gus Poyet will surely do his homework, and will be aware that City can be beaten on the biggest stage, which will fill his team with a real sense of belief.
The odds are firmly against Sunderland and West Ham, but nothing in football is ever settled until the final whistle pierces the roar of the crowd, and this year a new name could be engraved on that Capital One Cup trophy.