Fan Focus: Cup Clash City Catchup

Michael Regan

You may or may not have heard, but there is a pretty big game tomorrow, so we thought it wise to catch up with our Wembley opponents over at fellow SBN blog Bitter and Blue to talk all about the Cup Final

Roker Report: We're just over twenty four hours away from the big game at Wembley now, how are City fans approaching the fixture? Does the Capital One Cup hold much clamour when you've tasted Champions League football?

Bitter & Blue: A cup final is a cup final so I don't think there is any chance of taking it for granted or it feeling jaded - despite a fair few trips to Wembley the past couple of years or so.

RR: Following the shock defeat in the FA Cup Final to Wigan are there any concerns that another upset may well be on the cards?

BB: There are concerns, of course, but this stems primarily from the recent reversals City have had on their trips to Wearside as opposed to anything from the FA Cup final last season. If anything, the defeat to Wigan will serve as a reminder for the side to keep their focus.

RR: It would appear that Sergio Aguero is likely to back in City's side come Sunday afternoon, how much of a boost will the Argentinean's return be to the side?

BB: Although he's back in full training it may be that he doesn't get the start but I'd expect to see him involved at some point during the game. His return is a huge boost both for this weekend and the coming months in general. We wrote about his influence over at the blog at the start of the week. Hard to underestimate his influence on the side.

RR: Sunderland suffered a humbled defeat away at Arsenal in what was billed here on Wearside as a dress rehearsal for the Cup Final; playing a good side on a large pitch etc. Were many in the blue half of Manchester rubbing their hands together as the goals flew in?

BB: I think at the time they were more concerned at the lack of goals going in at The Etihad than any meltdown Sunderland were undergoing. I'm not too sure that performance will have a direct impact on the game this weekend and by and large they seem to have manage to separate league and cup results this season.

RR: One major concern which came to mind as I watched Saturday's horrorshow was the ease with which Arsenal were able to cut through Sunderland through the middle, which rang alarm bells given the threat Yaya Toure can pose in such a position. How vital is he to City's potential success on Sunday?

BB: City's midfield contains plenty of creativity and attacking threat; both David Silva and Samir Nasri will likely start, but the drive emanates from Yaya Toure. Fernandinho is fit again which should release the shackles somewhat and he could have a huge impact on the game, as he has tended to do in games at Wembley.

RR: Manchester City have a wealth of talent in the attacking third of the field, who do you expect will cause Sunderland the most trouble on the day?

BB: Perm any one from half a dozen?! If Aguero is does start then he will cause so many problems to the back line with his movement which in turns open up the space for the likes of Silva, Nasri and Toure to exploit.

RR: Sunderland's road to Wembley has captured the imagination of Wearside with many simply expecting the competition to prove to be an exercise in building confidence and momentum to aid the relegation battle instead of a quest for Silverware. In comparison how was City's campaign to the final?

BB: Largely untroubled to be honest. To get there City saw off Wigan, Newcastle, Leicester and West Ham without really being threatened. We all know the Premier League is the all-consuming beast that it is and so much focus has been on City's performances in the league that it has sailed under the ra

RR: Joe Hart seems to have regained his spot as the number one keeper at the Etihad, how have his performances improved since his earlier "blip" this season?

BB: He has been flawless since he got back into the side, which, despite the popular narrative, he was always going to do. His problems stemmed from trying to 'make up' for a mistake and he was trying to force situations (rushing out for balls etc) rather than 'managing the game', which is what keepers should basically do. Fortunately he appears to have focussed on doing just that and his game has benefited from it.

RR: Is this the kind of game where the workrate of James Milner could prove valuable on Wembley's big pitch?

BB: It could certainly be the type of game that he would thrive in but it is difficult to see him get the start with City's midfield corps fit. If he doesn't start then he is another who should see some minutes from the bench.

RR: Sunderland fans will be desperately hoping that Martin Demechelis figures on Sunday given his recent poor performances despite staunch defence from Pellegrini. What do City fans make of the defender?

BB: Fairly mixed. He appears to have taken over from Javi Garcia as the current fan target. For the most part he has been solid, albeit with one or two errors that have been magnified. He does seem to have become the first choice partner to Vincent Kompany with Matija Nastasic sidelined.

RR: Adam Johnson is enjoying something of a renaissance of late after finally finding his feet on Wearside, is there any fear that he may well pose his old club some problems?

BB: Well, he's in a vein of form at the moment so in theory yes, but he hasn't shone so far when facing City and on the whole he appears to be as frustratingly inconsistent as he was at City.

RR: City have the potential to bomb the vast majority of Premier League sides out of the water given their firepower, how do you see Pellegrini setting his side up? Will he go for goals again or opt for a little more of a conservative approach?

BB: He has on rare occasions fielded five in midfield but on the whole has steadfastly stick to going with two strikers and a very attacking formation, with both full backs given plenty of licence. I can't see Pellegrini tapering his approach on Sunday though, expect the usual attacking set up.

RR: Where on the field do you see the game being won? Any key battles for you?

BB: Sunderland aren't going to win a shoot out with City so for them to get the win they need to win their defensive battle, frustrate City's attack, limit time on the ball and restrict space. It will be tough at Wembley but they have proved able to get the better of them on occasion in recent seasons.

RR: Talk us through your plan for the day, watching on TV or enjoying a saunter down Wembley Way?

BB: Unfortunately I can't get down to London this weekend so TV for me.

RR: Prediction?

BB: 2-0 City. A fairly tight game but a late second will give them some breathing room.

Many thanks to Danny from Bitter and Blue for taking the time to speak with us. Be sure to check out their fantastic blog for all the City reaction following tomorrow's game.

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