Sunderland v Man City – Capital One Cup Final Key Battles

The Capital One Cup Final looks set to be a fascinating battle as the in-form Manchester City take on relegation battling Sunderland.

The two sides may be at opposite ends of the Premier League table, but the cup final can be a great leveller in terms of abilities, with the unique atmosphere having the potential to give players an extra yard of pace or plant a seed of doubt in the back of their minds.

There will be a series of individual duels on the Wembley turf that may well be decisive,  so here are some that we feel may decide who takes the trophy home, and who is set for a quiet journey back to the North of the England…

Vincent Kompany vs. Fabio Borini

Although much of the talk in the build-up to the Final has surrounded City’s attacking threats, Sunderland are not without their own. Borini has been absolutely key in the Black Cats’ run to Wembley, with big goals against Chelsea and Manchester United having been pivotal. The on-loan Italian may start from a wide position, but his natural striker instincts will see him drift into a central area, which will put him in direct competition with Kompany.

The Belgian enforcer is, arguably, one of the world’s finest centre-backs, but he will have to be on top of his game to track the movement of the diminutive Italian to protect Joe Hart behind him. If he can do so, then Sunderland’s attacking threat will be greatly nullified.

Yaya Toure vs. Ki Sung-Yueng

On his day Toure is less a midfielder and more of a force of nature, with his pure power and pace rendering him almost impossible to contain. The Ivorian has a tendency to ‘go missing’ at times, and Ki will be hopeful that this is the case at Wembley.

The South Korean himself is a top performer on his day, and he may have to curb his desires to get forward to aid his defensively-minded midfield companions to stop the burly ex-Barcelona man from deciding the game. Likewise Toure will have to be at his best and track the runs of the on-loan Sunderland ace.

Adam Johnson vs. Pablo Zabaleta

It’s always a danger facing an ex-player in any game, and if that game is a cup final the script is almost written for a player to haunt his former employers. Johnson will be just that man at Wembley, with the winger having endured an awful spell at City, which saw him slide away from the England side and threated to ruin a once promising career.

But with the wide-man rejuvenated in 2014, he may well be in a great position to ‘stick it’ to the side that once paid his wages, but he will have to overcome one of the very best full-backs in English football in the shape of Zabaleta.

The Argentine has just about everything the modern wide defender needs, and can keep even the best winger quiet. Johnson will also have to aid his own full-back to stop the South American providing ammunition for the likes of Alvaro Negredo.

Alvaro Negredo vs. Vito Mannone

‘The Beast’ is currently the Capital One Cup’s top scorer and one of the most feared strikers in the Premier League. No matter what the Sunderland defence do, he is likely to get a few opportunities on goal, and in that scenario Vito Mannone will need to be at his very best to give his side a fighting chance of lifting the trophy.

The Italian stopper has been one of the Black Cats’ better players on their run to the Final, and has displayed his shot-stopping abilities, which he will need to call upon at some stage to keep Negredo – and the rest of City’s threats – at bay.

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