Sergio Aguero is in contention to return to the Manchester City side for Sunday’s Capital One Cup final against Sunderland. Aguero has been out for a month with a hamstring injury suffered in the 5-1 win over Tottenham. Despite manager Manuel Pellegrini praising the influence of his forward, he hinted that he would take no chances with his fitness at Wembley.
“I think it is very important for the team to have Sergio with us again because he is a very important player,” he explained, according to Manchester City’s official website. “We must see if he is 100 percent fit to play the whole match. I must decide tomorrow and see the way he is recovering from the work from this week.”
Aguero’s return would be particularly helpful with Stevan Jovetic being ruled with his own hamstring injury. Matija Nastasic is also unavailable, while Costel Pantilimon is set to get the nod over Joe Hart having started all but one of the club’s matches in the League Cup. Regardless of team selection, City will start as overwhelming favorites to win the first major silverware of the season. Certainly if they perform as they did in the semifinals, when they demolished West Ham 9-0 on aggregate, then they will surely be holding the trophy aloft.
City’s recent form has been less impressive, however. The goals that came thick and fast for most of the season have dried up, with City having found the net just four times in their last five matches. While they were impressive in beating Chelsea in the FA Cup two weeks ago, they were less so in a goalless draw with Norwich and narrow win over Stoke last time out. Their hopes of an unprecedented quadruple have also taken a major dent with a 2-0 defeat to Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at the Etihad.
And Sunderland should have belief that they can cause a major upset, having already done so twice in this season’s competition. After beating Chelsea in the quarterfinals, they then ousted Manchester United over two legs in the semifinals. Manager Gus Poyet is under no illusions of the task awaiting his side, but is keen for his team to do everything possible to give themselves a chance of causing another shock.
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“At the end of the game, of course it’s going to be magnificent if we win,” he said, according to Sunderland’s official website. “But if it for some reason goes the other way we want to be proud that the team was there, we did the basics and fought and gave everything to the last second for this football club.
“I keep repeating myself, to win a final you need to beat the best. You can’t pick your opposition and this is going to be [against] one of the best teams in the world. It’s going to be difficult, but to have a chance to win it we need to be there. We have a chance. How big a chance, we’ll see -- that depends on how we play.”
Fuelling talk of an upset is Sunderland’s remarkable recent record against Manchester City, which has seen them win their lost four matches against them at the Stadium of Light. Their win over City in November came in just Poyet’ second home league game in charge. The Uruguayan has lifted the club’s fortunes after their disastrous start under Paulo di Canio, although they remain in the relegation zone.
After just one defeat in 10 matches, Sunderland suffered a convincing 4-1 loss to Arsenal last weekend, when it appeared that minds had already turned toward the big day out at Wembley. Poyet can at least call upon an almost full-strength squad, with only back-up goalkeeper Keiren Westwood a fitness doubt as Sunderland go in search of their first major silverware holding the FA Cup aloft in 1973.
Where to watch: The Capital One Cup final will kick off at 9 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sports, with a live stream available on beIN Sports Play.