Just last week I mentioned that the next month or so will make or break Manchester City’s season, and so far the mega rich club have stumbled out of the blocks.
Having lost at home to Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League, City - much like every other English team - face an almighty climb to keep their European hopes alive when travel to play the second leg in Cataluña.
Down 2-0 already, they need to prevent Barca from scoring while bagging two themselves in order to force extra time and penalties - three goals to qualify cleanly - on March 12.
But before then, they will have a Capital One Cup final tie against Sunderland at Wembley this weekend, and according to reports, star striker Sergio Aguero may be up for selection following a month absence due to a hamstring injury.
However, should Manuel Pellegrini risk him?
Manchester City have been scoring goals for fun this season as they reached the century mark in record time. The Argentina hitman lead the way (26 goals), but injuries have derailed his season and the rest of the strike-force seem to have either hit a wall or are injured.
Edin Dzeko, supposedly the third choice striker, has scored 17 goals this season but lately seems to be out of wack as shown by this horrendous miss. Alvaro Negredo - aka the "Beast" - had struck fear into the opposition by scoring 24 goals in his opening campaign in English football, but he too can't seem to find the back of the net.
Meanwhile Stevan Jovetic sustained a hamstring injury after 13 minutes coming on for Negredo against Stoke City.
Nonetheless, come Sunday afternoon, Man City will be favourites - SkyBet has them at 30/100 to lift the Capital One trophy and Sunderland are just 17/2 to pull off an upset.
Then again that's to be expected considering the ocean sized difference in individual quality and their superior league standing(Third with a game in hand while Sunderland are 18th). However, I urge you to think about this for a second.
Eveeryone, with the exception of the most optimistic Wigan supporters/Manchester City hecklers, expected the Blues to steam roll over the Wigan in last year’s FA Cup final, but it was the spirited underdogs lifted the cup, despite City fielding a full strength team.
Ben Watson was the hero after his glancing header flew by Joe Hart to clinch it at the death. A sequence of events that captain Vincent Kompany remembers all too well and is cautious of this time around.
“It’s in the back of my mind,” said the defender. “I still have the defeat against Wigan last season[in my mind]. It doesn't feel nice to go all that way and then, just before the end, you see it all taken away from you.”
Moreover, Sunderland have been somewhat of a nuisance for the Manchester club, almost becoming their voodoo team in recent years.
Since the 2010/11 season, the two teams have played each other seven times in the Premier League and the Wearside club have come out with a win or a draw in all but two games – four wins, two losses, one draw. That includes the 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light back in November, thanks to Phil Bardsley's calm 21st minute finish.
Still, anything other than a Manchester City win would be a shock, but don't think it will be simple and straight forward because the Black Cats won't just lay down and accept defeat. Manuel Pellegrini knows this so expect to see on the bench Sergio Aguero on the bench just in-case things do go south.
Plus, the Chilean knows the lethal forward needs a game or two in order to get up to speed before the crucial second in Spain and the rest of the quest for an unprecedented quadruple.
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