Liverpool v Manchester City | Sunday 28 February | Wembley Stadium | 18:30
Liverpool and Manchester City will face off at Wembley Stadium on Sunday in an attempt to win the first major piece of silverware on offer this season. With both sides struggling to meet their targets in the Premier League, the cup final should come as a welcome distraction for Jurgen Klopp and Manuel Pellegrini. This will be the 12th time the Reds will compete in the final, having won eight of their previous 11 visits. City have won the competition three times, their last coming in 2014 which was Pellegrini’s first trophy at the club.
To Win (90 Mins)
Liverpool 19/10 | Draw 23/10 | Man City 13/10
Klopp has promised Liverpool fans they will win the Capital One Cup final and will be full of confidence after their emphatic 4-1 victory at the Etihad earlier in the season. Klopp's side tore City apart with a dazzling first-half performance, which saw them take a 3-0 lead through Eliaquim Mangala's early own goal and cool finishes from Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino.
Sergio Aguero reduced the deficit before half-time, but the Reds regained their composure after the break and clinched the win late on through Martin Skrtel's stunner. Klopp will rely on his players to replicate that performance in order to win silverware in his first season at Anfield. The Reds had a scare against League Two Carlisle United in the third round, winning 3-2 on penalties after drawing 1-1 in 90 minutes before the sacking of Brendan Rodgers. Then they beat Bournemouth 1-0 in the round of 16 thanks to Nathaniel Clyne’s goal which handed Klopp his first win at the helm, following three consecutive draws in the league.
In the quarter-finals, Liverpool were merciless and superb in their 6-1 thrashing of Southampton. Divock Origi grabbed a hat-trick, Daniel Sturridge scored a brace and Jordon Ibe completed the rout. Liverpool then booked their place in Wembley by beating Stoke City – who kicked out holders Chelsea – 6-5 on penalties, after the tie finished 1-1 on aggregate after extra-time.
The brilliance of Sturridge and Coutinho made a huge impact in Liverpool's last league encounter against relegation-threatened Aston Villa, who they thrashed 6-0 at Villa Park. Both players have been hampered by injuries this term and Klopp will be delighted to have them back fit and firing. Coutinho brings goal threat, brilliant creativity and invention, while Sturridge has bags of pace, quick feet and a lethal left foot. Martin Skrtel is back on the training pitch and should be available, while Adam Lallana is expected to overcome a calf problem which is a huge boost.
After watching his weakened team exit the FA Cup via a 5-1 defeat from Chelsea last weekend, Pellegrini will be going all out to win the Capital One Cup. Manchester City swept aside Sunderland 4-1 in the third round with goals from Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, in addition to an own goal from Vito Mannone. City bettered that performance and cruised into the quarter-finals with a 5-1 win over Crystal Palace. Wilfried Bony put City in front when he powered in a header, before De Bruyne slotted home a second at the far post. He then set up provider Kelechi Iheanacho, who fired in the third. Yaya Toure made it 4-0 from the spot and Damien Delaney headed in for Palace before Manuel Garcia slotted in late.
Pellegrini’s side then eased to a 4-1 win over Hull City in the quarter-finals unscathed. Finally tested in the semi-finals by Roberto Martinez’s Everton, City had to fight from a goal down to defeat the Toffees 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium and 4-3 on aggregate to book their place in the final.
Pellegrini has been hit with a few serious injuries with De Bruyne, Fabian Delph, Jesus Navas, Samir Nasri, Bony and Mangala all ruled out. However, City have enough quality in their side with Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Sterling, Toure and Aguero. Sterling, whose acrimonious exit from Anfield in July ended one of the most unsavoury transfer sagas in recent memory, will be hoping to have the last laugh on those Liverpool supporters who taunted him earlier this season. The 21-year-old has scored 10 goals in all competitions for City, one less than he managed in the entire 2014-15 campaign at Liverpool. Sterling has explosive pace, quick feet and trickery that can cause his former club all kinds of problems.
Silva will be the main ingredient for creativity and will be expected to dictate the tempo and style of City’s attacks. He can unlock any defence and has the ability to create something out of nothing. Pellegrini will be hoping to end his stay at City with a piece of silverware before Pep Guardiola takes over in the summer. If that is to happen, the Chilean will need a big-game performance from Aguero. The Argentine has scored 17 goals in all competitions this season and will be very difficult to contain.
Verdict: Manchester City (13/10)
Liverpool thrashed City 4-1 at home in what was an embarrassing defeat for Pellegrini. City will be hoping to have the last laugh against Liverpool. Vincent Kompany missed the defeat against Liverpool and City look much more solid in defence when he plays. With the quality at City’s disposal, I’m tipping them to reign victorious at 13/10.
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