By Shikharr Chandra
Cup competitions are known to produce upsets. It is their sheer unpredictability that seperates them from the leagues that generally tend to follow a pattern in the long haul. Burnley defeating Chelsea and Birmingham City beating Arsenal are a couple of examples where being favourites means very little on the day.
So when Manchester City enter Wembley for the second time in two seasons, they will know that they have to avoid any sort of complacency going into the game or risk facing a similar fate to their FA Cup final against Wigan Athletic last season.
The Citizens boast a starting line-up probably worth five times more than the one Gus Poyet might select for the final but if there is one thing City should have learnt from last season, it is that there are no winners until the final whistle has been blown.
The FA Cup defeat was the final nail in the coffin for Roberto Mancini who ended last season trophyless and was replaced by Manuel Pellegrini in the summer. The former Inter Milan manager guided the club to their first Premier League title in more than 40 years in addition to the FA Cup title back in 2010, and Pellegrini knew it was always going to be hard to replace a manager who had entered City's history books almost instantaneously.
“You can stick your Pellegrini up your a---!” sung the City supporters at the Wembley last season, this time around though it seems that very man has managed to change the views of the majority of the supporters if not all of them.
City's Capital One Cup run has arguably been the easiest of all the big clubs in the Premier League. Pellegrini's side have scored 19 goals so far in the cup, conceding on just one occasion. Things were made a lot easier for them when the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal met each other, whereas opponents Sunderland took advantage of a dismal Manchester United side over the two legs.
“The feeling if you lose is not the same as if you win the game, so I think it’s very important for the team to have a winning mentality and to have an ambitious mentality. Both of those things start from winning the Capital One Cup and then trying to win other titles.
But what could play a major role going into this game is the lack of success the Chilean manager has had over the last decade. Despite managing Real Madrid and Malaga, Pellegrini still remains trophyless for nearly a decade now, a feat that he last achieved in South America managing River Plate.
Instant success often plays a major role in setting the tone for not only the remainder of the season but for further campaigns at the club. New signings Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas and Fernandinho could all start for City in the final whereas Stevan Jovetic is expected to sit out due to injury.
The Spanish duo of Navas and Negredo are no strangers to glory. The duo share seven trophies between them at club level in addition to playing a major role in Spain's international dominance over the years.
Fernandinho on the other hand has not had international success with Brazil but was part of Shakhtar Donetsk's dominance in the Ukranian League that saw him land 14 trophies during his eight year tenure at the club.
After the League Cup final, City welcome Wigan at the Etihad for the FA Cup game followed by a trip to Barcelona where they will look to overcome a 2-0 deficit in order to progress to the next round of the Champions League.
This is what makes Sunday's League Cup tie all the more important. A defeat against Sunderland could prove to be demoralizing for City, further dampening their chances of landing more silverware this season. Not many expect City to qualify for the next round of the Champions League especially with a daunting task at the Nou Camp beckoning but going there with a defeat in a cup final could see them getting humiliated on the continental stage.
Pellegrini's side have played one league game less so far this season after their game against Sunderland was called off due to heavy wind which has helped Chelsea and Arsenal open a gap between them and City. With the Manchester side not playing again for the next two weeks in the league, Chelsea could well open a gap of nine points and even though City will have time to recover it, games in quick succession will make it hard for them.
City's remaining fixtures are not the toughest but at second glance, one could see they do have the trickiest. They boast an exceptional home record with just one defeat in the league but its been their away form that has been troubling. With away trips to Arsenal, Liverpool and neighbours Manchester United still left to play, City cannot afford to go into these games with the pressure of winning silverware weighing on their minds.
The Capital One Cup has been seen as an opportunity for top-flight clubs to give their reserves a run out. But at the end of the day, its a chance to win silverware and boost the morale of the club. A win for City could set the tone for the remainder of the season as Pellegrini eyes a domestic treble or even a quadruple if they get lucky.
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