The final of this season’s Capital One Cup Final at Wembley will pitch Premier League title challengers Manchester City against relegation threatened Sunderland in a match already being described as an almost certain victory for City. Bookmakers have installed Manuel Pellegrini’s team as overwhelming favourites but cup finals are never decided by the form book and the gods have certainly been smiling on Gus Poyet’s Sunderland squad during this tournament.
Home ties against M K Dons and Peterborough allowed Sunderland to progress to the last 16 where another home draw awaited against Southampton. The Saints opted to field a team bereft of several first eleven regulars and the Black Cats duly won the tie by a 2-1 margin.
A home quarter-final against Chelsea was expected to be a more demanding test for the Wearsiders, but an equaliser two minutes from the end of ninety minutes and an extra time winner in the 119th minute eliminated a below strength Chelsea unit.
For the semi-final, Sunderland were drawn to play a Manchester United team minus Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, and secured a 2-1 first leg lead with the help of a controversial penalty award. The second leg at Old Trafford would prove to be the ultimate test.
United were once again unable to select their two main strikers and Nemanja Vidic was suspended but Johnny Evans broke the deadlock in the first half with a close range header. There was no further score in the second half and with two minutes remaining of extra time, Manchester Utd still led 1-0, a score which would enable them to progress to the final on away goals.
Then a harmless long range effort by David Bardsley was fumbled by David de Gea and trickled into the Manchester net. It had been Sunderland’s first shot on target. Javier Hernandez instantly replied from short range to send the tie into penalties.
By scoring twice from their five penalties, Sunderland sealed their place in the Wembley final where Manchester City will be their opponents. It is worth noting that the Black Cats have beaten City 1-0 at the Stadium of Light in each of the previous four seasons and City lost to Wigan in last season’s FA Cup final when clear favourites to win the match.
Such is Manchester City’s current strength that they are currently challenging for four trophies while Sunderland occupy 19th position in the Premier League but do remain in the FA Cup with an imminent Fourth Round home tie against Conference team Kidderminster.
Most pundits will agree that City are expected to comfortably win the final but the Wearside team defied the odds in 1973 when as a second tier team they defeated the mighty Leeds United team in the FA Cup final.
There may still be people sufficiently daring to take the odds of 5/1 for Sunderland to win the 2013-14 Capital One Cup.