Sunderland Team News
Gus Poyet has decisions to make ahead of the Capital One cup final, with some easier than others.
The first is a no-brainer. Wes Brown is back from suspension and barring some sort of set-back in training will replace Santiago Vergini at the heart of the defence, partnering John O'Shea.
Another easy decision is to bring in Lee Cattermole to replace the cup-tied Liam Bridcutt for the holding midfield role. Of the two remaining midfield roles though, one remains a mystery. Ki Sung-Yeung will obviously start, but it remains to be seen whether the other berth will go to Jack Colback, Emanuele Giaccherini or Seb Larsson. In fact even Craig Gardner is in with a shout having come back into favour with Poyet of late.
If Giaccherini can't crack the center of midfield there's a chance that he will make it into the front-line.
Who starts down the middle seems to be anyone's guess. There's cases to be made for each option.
Fabio Borini -- The most in form, but has not played the role much for us and may not have the strength to fight Kompany and co.
Jozy Altidore -- Fit, but not scoring this season. Maybe this weekend will be the week? Do you take that chance?
Steven Fletcher -- Still a bit injured, but brings slightly more chance of scoring than Altidore.
Nacho Scocco doesn't really come into contention to start in anyway having only recently joined the club and being short of games.
We think that it will be a roll of the dice whoever gets the nod. Personally, I'd go with Altidore but something in my bones thinks it will be Borini, with Giaccherini and Adam Johnson supporting from the wings.
One striking option not available to Sunderland is Connor Wickham, who has joined Leeds United on loan.
Manchester City Team News
Manuel Pellegrini has near enough a full lineup to choose from, but those with doubts over them are significant players.
Sergio Aguero and Matija Nastasic will both undergo late fitness tests to see if they can feature, as will expensive summer signing Stevan Jovetic.
We expect Pellegrini to go all out for this one. People have talked about the impending second leg of their Champions League game with Barcelona but it's still quite far off for the Chilean to considering resting anyone, especially with silverware at stake.
Perhaps the only major decision for Pellegrini will be whether or not to go with Joleon Lescott or Martin Demichelis in central defence, but with Demichelis being something of a favourite of the managers we would expect him to start.
Sunderland: Vito Mannone, Phil Bardsley, John O'Shea, Wes Brown, Marcos Alonso, Lee Cattermole, Ki Sung-Yeung, Jack Colback, Emanuele Giaccherini, Fabio Borini, Adam Johnson
Manchester City: Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, Gael Clichy, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo, Edin Dzeko, David Silva
Key Matchup: Adam Johnson Vs Gael Clichy
There's tonnes of match-ups in which Sunderland will need to get the upper-hand to have a chance in this encounter, however we've opted for this one to take a look at.
This season any time Sunderland have done well it's coincided with Johnson being at his very best. Against his former club he has good chance of hitting top gear too against the forward-roaming Clichy, who will hopefully leave space in behind for Johnson to do some damage.
If Johnson fails to take advantage of the situation though, it could be a long, long day for Sunderland.
Recent Form: LDWLW
Loss: Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea (Ivanovic 34)
Drawn: Norwich City 0-0 Manchester City
Won: Manchester City 2-0 Chelsea (Jovetic 16, Nasri 67)
Loss: Manchester City 0-2 Barcelona (Messi 54 pen, Alves 90)
Won: Manchester City 1-0 Stoke City (Toure 70)
Last Time Around: Sunderland 1-0 Manchester City, 10/11/13
Difficult one to do. Usually we go for the last time they met at that particular venue (NB: Not actually checked that), however in light of that not actually happening we've gone for simply the last time the two sides met.
Last time we met was a mere four months ago when Phil Bardsley's early strike past Costel Pantilimon earned Sunderland and Gus Poyet their traditional 1-0 win over City.
Same again this Sunday to well and truly cap the remarkable resurgence of Phil Bardsley? Why on earth not!
The Ref: Martin Atkinson
Martin Atkinson will oversee the game this weekend and has taken charge of two Sunderland games this season. The first being when Arsenal well and truly outclassed us for the first time 3-1 at the Stadium Of Light, before enduring the 0-0 snoozefest with Norwich City.
Atkinson has been in charge of one Manchester City game this season. The 6-3 drubbing of Arsenal at the Emirates.
This season Atkinson has dished out 60 yellow cards in the Premier League, given 3 red cards and awarded 7 penalties in 19 matches, so expect plenty of stoppages on Sunday.
In his career Atkinson has taken charge of Sunderland on 29 occasions, during which time Sunderland have won 7, lost 11 and drawn 11. He's dished out 34 yellow cards to Sunderland players and 1 red.
On the plus side he's given us 4 penalties and never given one against us, whilst also dishing out 57 yellow cards and 3 reds to opposition players.
What They're Saying
It's going to be special, firstly because I was not expecting this in my first season here, and secondly because everything was very, very dark and sad when we got here.
Now we are 90 minutes away - or 120 - from being the happiest people in England.
To be there, you need to have done something previously, and I think we deserve to be there for what we have done in the cup.
Forget about the rest, in the cup especially, we have been a team that was difficult to play against and we have beaten top teams to have a chance to be in the final.
If in my press conference when I arrived you had asked me about the cup, I would have said, 'Oh come on, stop it, I'm not talking about the cup. There is only one thing to talk about and that is the Barclays Premier League'.
But now we are here and now it's the opposite. Now if you asked every manager in England if they would like to be where we are, they would say to you, 'Yes' because you have got a chance to win something.
We need to make sure that we do everything possible to take this opportunity. That's the only thing I can ask of my players, everything possible.
I want to have a feeling on Sunday morning that everything was done to the best of our ability to go and play the game.
I have no doubt that Sunday will be like this against Sunderland and we must be at our best to make sure we get to lift the trophy.
We have a chance to win the Capital One Cup and we will try to do it - we always want to win every competition we are in and this is a very important tournament.
It would be a good start for me here in England in my first season, to win the first competition available.
Roker Report Predicts
Gahhh... It's only just in writing this dawned on me how big and real this is!
Head says we're going to get beaten with an early goal and kind of be disinterested from then on wards. However my heart says there's something about us this season, and in having City's number historically, why not again?
I'm siding with the heart. I'm daring myself to dream. In that dream it's a 2-1 victory for Sunderland. My premonition sees Phil Bardsley opening the scoring in the first half, Edin Dzeko equalizing in the final five minutes of normal time for City before a long range, deflected effort by substitute Craig Gardner seals an extra-time victory.
I also predict controversy. A goal disallowed that shouldn't, a did-it-didn't-it cross the line, dubious sending off, something like that.