The stage is set for Liverpool and Manchester City to battle it out for the first piece of silverware when they meet in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley on Sunday. The fixture has added significance this year. Reds manager, Jürgen Klopp, is looking to win his first major trophy with the club since joining in October last year while City boss Manuel Pellegrini will want to bow out in style and win at least one trophy before departing for pastures new in the summer.
Liverpool’s passage through to the final was anything but straightforward. Carlisle United of League Two took them to a penalty shoot-out at Anfield as the home fans vented there frustration with a chorus of boos during the 120 minutes. Penalties were also required in the semi-final against Stoke with the much maligned Simon Mignolet becoming Liverpool’s unlikely hero.
Adam Lallana, Joe Allen and Martin Skrtel are unlikely to feature following injury but Dejan Lovren has recovered from illness. As ever with Liverpool a lot will depend on the fitness levels of key pair Daniel Sturridge and Phillippe Coutinho. Both started the Europa League tie against Augsburg on Thursday night but were withdrawn in he second half. If they can play the full 90 minutes it will be a major boost for Klopp’s men.
This will be Liverpool’s 12th League Cup final, a record for the competition. Of the previous 11 they have lifted the trophy eight times.
In contrast, City have had a more routine passage through to the final. Pellegrini’s men scored 13 goals in the first three rounds as they put Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Hull City to the sword. After breezing into the semis, City were made to sweat for their place in the final as they were beaten 2-1 in the first leg at Goodison Park. Sergio Aguero turned on the style in the home leg at the Etihad as he struck in the final 20 minutes to give city a 4-3 aggregate win.
Wilfried Bony and Jesus Navas are expected to return to the Manchester City squad along with Eliaquim Mangala who has not played since early January. Vincent Kompany, Bacary Sagna and ex-Reds winger Raheem Sterling are in the squad while Willy Caballero will start in goal. Fabian Delph, Kevin De Bruyne and Samir Nasri are long-term absentees.
Manchester City have been in four previous League Cup finals winning in 1970, 1976 and most recently in 2014 against Sunderland.
The two sides have met on six previous occasions in the League Cup with Liverpool winning three times and City with just the solitary victory. In the most recent encounter the Reds ran out rampant 4-1 winners in their Premier League clash back in November. It proved to be a chastening evening for Raheem Sterling against his former club as Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino ran amok.
City have struggled in big games this season and have lost against title rivals Leicester City (yes Leicester City) and Tottenham in recent weeks. This is another big game and I am tipping Liverpool to edge out City in a close encounter, providing Sturridge, Coutinho and Firmino can operate as front three. Liverpool to win in 90 minutes is 9/4 on Bet365.
Robert Firmino terrorised City earlier in the season and with the likes of Sturridge and Coutinho playing around him back the Brazilian to open the scoring on Sunday at a generous 17/2 on bet365. Get all the latest odds here.