SUNDERLAND fans had a pointless trip to Manchester City on Wednesday night in the Premier League, but the two teams will meet again on March 2 to contest for the first trophy of the season in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley.
The Black Cats have seen a resurgence in form under new manager Gus Poyet and advanced past City’s rivals Manchester United over the two legs of their semi final in the competition. The Uruguayan’s side have caused some upsets recently and will be looking to spring further surprises on City in the coming weeks.
A Phil Bardsley goal gave Sunderland a 1-0 win in their previous meeting this season and despite being the underdogs, Sunderland have proven their ability to beat City.
Here are five things Sunderland need to do to overcome the League Cup favourites.
5. Take Their Chances
Few would expect Sunderland to pile the pressure on a team like Manchester City and with City’s usual dominance over possession, Sunderland will expect to have little opportunity to create chances.
That being said, Sunderland should forge some opportunities for themselves and it will be of the utmost importance that they take the few chances they will get.
Phil Bardsley’s winner in November was one out of just five shots the Black Cats had on Costel Pantilimon’s goal, while City conjured up 24 attempts without scoring.
It’s hard to see that pattern changing, but Sunderland have proven their ability to overcome City before and it will be of supreme importance at Wembley.
4. Retain Possession
Having the ball for 37% of the time during their last meeting with City just went to show how dominant the away side were over Sunderland and it was the basis of why Sunderland were under constant pressure for large parts of the match.
Averaging 45.8% of the ball across their games this year, Sunderland do pretty well considering the quality of the opposition they face - they could do with more of the ball at Wembley to stop City turning up the pressure gauge even further.
Sunderland will need respite and the easiest way to get it is to retain the ball.
3. Stop Yaya Toure
Perhaps the best all round midfielder in Europe at the moment, Yaya Toure is showing his unique abilities of extreme strength and powerful runs through the centre to hurt any team he faces.
With 12 goals to his name before Wednesday night’s clash, the Ivorian also carries a huge goal threat from set pieces as well as in open play.
Toure is hugely influential on City and Sunderland will need to monitor him at all times to improve their chances of winning the trophy.
2. Rely on Experience
Sunderland have some extremely experienced players among their ranks to compliment the young talents also at their disposal and during a highly charged final like this one, know-how will be key.
John O’Shea and Wes Brown, among others, have won the Champions League and countless Premier League trophies with Manchester United. Having their influence during the game will be essential.
Adam Johnson’s form of late may also be important to the cause, as for a player who has aspirations of making England’s World Cup squad he must start to affect the big games. At 26, the winger is now going to be entering his peak years and he must use his experience to help Sunderland through.
1. Stay Compact
The last thing Sunderland will want to do is concede an early goal and staying level or better within the first twenty minutes will be vitally important.
City’s ability to intricately pass the ball means Sunderland can ill afford to give City any space to play in, so they’ll need to stay compact for as long as possible.
David Silva especially has an ability to break teams apart and capitalise on any space he finds, so he will need to be watched closely.
Sunderland limited City to long range, speculative efforts for much of the match in their 1-0 win earlier in the campaign and they will need to do much of the same to thwart them at Wembley.
•This article was written by FTBpro’s Scott Saunders
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