Victory for Manchester City in tomorrows’s Capital One Cup final against underdogs Sunderland would be a vital step on the road to them becoming one of the best teams in the world and attracting more top talent, midfielder Yaya Toure has claimed.
The competition may not have been top of City’s priorities at the start of the campaign, but having battled through to Wembley, Toure feels success is crucial to the club’s continued growth.
“I’ve dedicated my heart to winning cups for this club and I knew when I first arrived that getting the silverware would mean we would attract great players,” the Ivorian said. “After the FA Cup (in 2011), Sergio Aguero signed for us and we went on to win the (league) title. If you want to have great players around you, you need to keep winning trophies – if that happens, more great players will come.
“We have an amazing squad and we are determined to win the Capital One (League) Cup because we might not be quite there yet, but within the next couple of years I expect we will be one of the best teams in the world.
“We are all dedicated to making this club great and we are not far away from being where we want to be.”
City are strong favourites to claim the season’s first piece of silverware against a Sunderland team who are still battling against relegation in the Premier League and coming into the game on the back of a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal. They have enjoyed better fortunes in the knockout competitions, however, and eliminated both Chelsea and Manchester United on their way to tomorrow’s final as they chase their first major trophy since they memorably lifted the FA Cup by beating Leeds United in the 1973 final at Wembley.
Manuel Pellegrini expects his City players to have learnt from last year’s Wembley nightmare. Pellegrini, appointed last summer, was still at Malaga when City suffered their shock FA Cup final loss to Wigan – in what proved Roberto Mancini’s last match in charge – last May.
Pellegrini is not interested in looking back at what went wrong under a different manager on that day, but does think the players could take extra motivation from it. The Chilean said: “I don’t like to talk with them about what happened last year but I am sure for every player it is a lesson. It is very beautiful to play for a title at Wembley and very awful to lose it. For all of them it is not revenge – it is another team, another year, another situation – but I am absolutely sure all will be 100 per cent motivated to win.”
The match could prove pivotal to the remainder of City’s campaign. Victory could lay the platform for further glory in other competitions but defeat could rob them of more momentum at a critical time.
Last month talk of a quadruple bid was rife but that has quietened down after losing to title rivals Chelsea in the Barclays Premier League and a potentially decisive Champions League defeat to Barcelona. “We would be very happy if we achieve it because it reflects all your work from the year,” said Pellegrini, who is boosted by the potential return of star striker Sergio Aguero. “This our first possibility. We have played a very good Capital One Cup because we have won all the games, scored 19 goals and conceded just one. I think it is very important to win the cup and the way we play.”
The return of Aguero, who has scored 26 goals in 25 matches this season after a month out with a hamstring injury, would undoubtedly be a massive boost for City.
“Sergio can give us all a huge lift, not just for the Capital One Cup final but for the rest of the season because, for me, he is one of the top five players in the world,” Pellegrini added. “He has had two long injuries but when he’s fit, he is a player who can make the difference.”
Sunderland need not have anything to fear either having recorded a home victory over City in each of the past four seasons. Pellegrini, speaking at his pre-match press conference, said: “It is always dangerous playing against any team. Sunderland have a lot of motivation to win this cup, the same as any team.
“I am sure we are the favourites but we cannot forget that Sunderland eliminated Chelsea and Manchester United – big teams. They are in the final because they deserved it. I am absolutely sure it will be a very close game.”
Former Celtic midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung is back on familiar turf, having tasted glory in last year’s final with Swansea City, who thrashed then League 2 side Bradford City 5-0 in a one-sided affair.
He is on loan at Sunderland from his parent club, but insists lifting the cup with Sunderland would mean more.
The South Korean said: “It will be a totally different game to last year. Last season was quite easy against Bradford, but this time, it’s a proper final.
“If we win this game, there will be a better feeling than last year. Playing against Bradford compared to City is completely different. If we win, you get a lot more satisfaction. It’s a great honour to be at Wembley for the second year in a row.
“Everyone will be watching it and we just want to blow this game away. Sometimes the biggest teams lose against smaller teams – it happens. It doesn’t happen very often, but often enough for us to believe there’s no reason why we can’t win on cup final day.”
Midfielder Liam Bridcutt will be the only significant absentee for Sunderland, with fellow Scotland international Steven Fletcher now back to fitness and in contention for a starting place.
Bridcutt is cup-tied having already played for former club Brighton in the competition earlier this season, and Lee Cattermole is likely to play the holding role in front of Gus Poyet’s back four at Wembley.
Sunderland’s Uruguayan coach Poyet, who was in the Chelsea side that won the 2000 FA Cup final at Wembley, the last played there before the old stadium was demolished, is looking for his wise old heads and experienced campaigners to lead by example.
He is expected to rely on the former Manchester United defensive pair of John O’Shea and Wes Brown at the back while former Manchester City player Adam Johnson has been in superb form recently.