Despite the Capital One Cup being a fairly traditional competition in the English game, this year’s Final will have a Latin American flavour, with Manuel Pellegrini and Gus Poyet set to battle in the dugout.
The two South American’s are both enjoying their debut seasons in the hectic world of the Premier League, and despite occupying positions at opposite ends of the table, they have both been successful in their own way.
That should set us up for a fascinating battle on the Wembley turf, with the Chilean and the Uruguayan – two nations known to enjoy a fierce rivalry – set to test themselves at the highest level. So will come out on top?
This is a tricky question, with both coach’s having their own unique styles and tactics. Although their approaches are not too dissimilar, they have strengths and weaknesses that could be exploited or used to their advantage on 2nd March.
We’ll start with Pellegrini, who is undoubtedly the favourite to lift the trophy once the 90 minutes – and potential extra time/penalties – are done. The ex-Malaga manager has taken like a duck to water in English football, with his side playing some of the very best football to have been seen in the top tier this term. Okay, he has the largest budget and an array of attacking talents, but to have seen his side break the 100 goal mark in January was some achievement.
Pellegrini relies upon an attacking pair, with Sergio Aguero and Alvaro ‘The Beast’ Negredo his preferred duo. This will cause much worry for the Sunderland backline, but can lead to vulnerability in the middle of midfield and on the counter-attack. Chelsea showed just how to exploit City’s weaknesses at the Etihad Stadium, and it’s safe to say that Poyet will have been taking note.
The Black Cats will probably utilise a 4-5-1 set-up as they have done on many occasions this season against the bigger sides. Poyet may look to the likes of Jack Colback to nullify City’s threats and close down Yaya Toure, while Ki Sung-Yueng – who will have to put a shift in defensively – will be tasked with getting forward to supports the attack.
Throughout their side Sunderland have players who are capable of closing down and hassling players in possession, which could be vital in launching counter-attacks through the game, which may be the North East side’s best opportunity to break through City’s stubborn backline.
Although the odds are heavily in favour of the Citizens, Sunderland can take heart from their opponents’ last trip to Wembley. City took on Wigan – who were eventually relegated – in the FA Cup Final last year, and were made to look lethargic and disinterested by the Latics. Although the 2011/12 Premier League champions were roundly criticised for a lack of desire, it has to be noted that Wigan, to an extent, made their opponents look poor through their willingness to disturb their passing rhythm.
Sunderland are not unlike Wigan, and could mix the now Championship side’s willingness to battle with their own comfort on the ball and attacking flair.
Even through the two sides set to contest the Final are in very different positions both financially and in terms of league ambition, the Capital One Cup Final is a difficult one to call this season. With two Latin American coaches we are sure to see a good mix of attacking intent and resolute defending, and it is hard to tell just who will come out on top. It’s sure to be a fascinating battle.
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