(Reuters) – Manchester City will be praying history does not repeat itself but Sunderland will be hoping it does when they meet in the Capital One (League) Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.
City start as the strong favourites and Sunderland the rank outsiders and both clubs know the elation and devastation that can follow when those odds are upset.
Last May City started as the overwhelming favourites to beat relegation-bound Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final but Wigan pulled off the biggest cup final upset for years and beat City 1-0 to lift the trophy for the first time in their history.
The last time Sunderland won a major honour the odds stacked against them were even greater.
In 1973 and then in the old Second Division, they stunned Don Revie’s all-star Leeds United team to win one of Wembley’s most famous finals with Ian Porterfield scoring the only goal.
Now City turn their attentions away from their Premier League title challenge to face relegation-threatened Sunderland in this season’s first major showcase and will be taking nothing for granted against Gus Poyet’s team.
Sunderland are one of only five clubs to have beaten City in the league this season and also ended the prospect of an all-Manchester final when they knocked out Manchester United on penalties in the semi-finals a month ago.
Although they have been in the relegation zone for most of the season and are currently 18th in the table two points from safety, their form has improved lately, even if their results have remained inconsistent.
But another upset cannot be ruled out in the tactical battle between the two sides who are both coached by South Americans.
Two days after City’s shock Cup final defeat last season, coach Roberto Mancini was sacked and his replacement, Chilean Manuel Pellegrini, has taken them to within sight of four trophies this season: the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League and League Cup.
Following their 2-0 home defeat by Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie that trophy is probably beyond them, but victory on Sunday would see them lift the first of what is a possible domestic treble, something no English club has ever achieved.
Pellegrini believes that winning on Sunday will give his men the self-belief to enjoy more success this season and bring a treble triumph closer to reality.
“The Capital One Cup gives us a chance to lift everyone and then we go from there and hopefully keep improving,” he told reporters.
“A cup final is always special and this one is a chance for us to take a very positive step forward this season.
“Do we talk about winning trophies all the time? No, we don’t and that is the correct way to do things.
“Manchester City is now a major club and only at the end of the season can you look at what you have done. That is the time to celebrate.”
Pellegrini also said that his Argentine striker Sergio Aguero, who has scored 26 goals in 25 matches this season could return for the final after a month out with a hamstring injury.
“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.
“He has had two long injuries but when he’s fit, he is a player who can make the difference,” Pellegrini said.
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.
South Korean Ki Sung-Yeung is looking to win a second successive League Cup medal after being in the Swansea City team a year ago.
“Leaders are important – they have the ability and experience and we count on them heavily,” he told Sunderland’s official website (www.safc.com).
“I can tell you this – when you walk out and see the stadium full with all the fans and all the noise, and you’ve never been there, it’s a new situation so it’s going to be a different feeling.
“You can’t prepare yourself for what you’re going to feel when you walk out. Some players will cope within one minute; some will take 15 minutes to settle down.”
Manchester City have won the League Cup twice and their triumph in 1976 was their last major honour for 35 years until they won the FA Cup in 2011.
Sunderland’s last major honour was the 1973 FA Cup. If they were to end that long drought without a trophy they would guarantee themselves a place in next season’s Europa League, even if, like Wigan last year, they also get relegated.