Football Expert & Columnist
Capital One Cup Final: Jamie Redknapp, Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn preview showpiece
Sunderland or City? Jamie Redknapp, Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn preview the Capital One Cup Final.
Last Updated: 01/03/14 6:34pm
You can catch all the action live on Sky Sports 1 live from 12.30pm, where we'll have three League Cup winners on hand to dissect the action.
Legendary Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips, who lifted this trophy with Birmingham in 2011, Niall Quinn, who made over 200 appearances for both finalists after picking up the League Cup with Arsenal in 1987, and former Liverpool captain Jamie Redknapp, who has two winners' medals from this competition, will be in the studio.
Here they share with skysports.com their verdict on the showpiece occasion, explain what victory would mean to both clubs - and say who they think will prevail...
The Capital One Cup isn't always a priority for clubs at the start of the season but how much will it mean to Sunderland and Man City to be at Wembley on Sunday?
Niall Quinn: This tournament certainly becomes a priority when you get to the quarter-final stage and a chance to go to Wembley and lift some silverware opens up. If you ask anybody who has been involved in this final, it's a special day and a special memory. I won one way back in the 1980s with Arsenal and it's a day I'll never forget. For a team like Sunderland, especially, whose trips to Wembley have been rare, it could be a defining moment for the club. It's wonderful for everyone concerned, particularly Black Cats owner Ellis Short, who bought 100 per cent of Sunderland when he could easily have bought a smaller stake of a more fashionable club. His support has been critical in Sunderland's stability over the last few years. I was in Sunderland last weekend where the excitement levels have reached fever pitch, tickets are like gold dust and there's a great buzz in the region. But this is the ideal game for me because I still have a lot of friends at Man City, too. They'll go there with a more clinical, professional approach and are expected to win it - and it's a good opportunity for Manuel Pellegrini to open his trophy account at City.
Jamie Redknapp: This could be a pivotal moment for Pellegrini, actually. I always remember when Jose Mourinho took over at Chelsea he identified the League Cup as a big trophy to win because it's the first one and, if you win it, it keeps everyone quiet. Look at Arsene Wenger, every year that goes by without a trophy at Arsenal the more pressure it brings. So Pellegrini will be looking to get one in the bag, give City a bit of confidence and then re-focus on trying to win the Premier League and turning around their deficit to Barcelona in the Champions League.
Man City have had a relatively straightforward passage to the final. Newcastle took them to extra-time but only Leicester City have scored against them. What does that say about their strength in depth?
Niall Quinn: Their strength in depth has helped them but they've looked a little suspect in the last few weeks. They had a tough game in the Champions League against Barcelona and the toughness of that competition can be telling at times. This gives them the chance to bounce back and win a trophy and with their squad they should win it. The bookmakers will tell you that.
Kevin Phillips: Sunderland know all about the strength Man City have. They also know that, for them to win on Sunday, every one of their players will have to be on top of their game and four or five of the City players will have to have an off day. As we've seen through the competition, the City squad is very strong - stronger than the one that lost the FA Cup final to Wigan last season - and if City play the way they can it will be extremely difficult for Sunderland to win.
Sunderland, on the other hand, have had a route to the final filled with drama. There have been late winners, penalty shoot-outs and extra-time goals - not to mention three different managers for the first three rounds they played in. What have you made of their progress to Wembley?
Kevin Phillips: To reach the final, having gone through what those players have been through this season, is incredible. Before Christmas they were dead and buried in the Premier League but Gus Poyet has come in and done a terrific job. They played at home in every tie which is a huge bonus, but they had to put in a performance at Old Trafford in the semi-finals - and that was a dramatic night! But it's not going to be all plain sailing if you're going to make a major final and Sunderland have had to ride their luck and take their chances. Having gone through all that, they will want to put in a really good performance on Sunday.
Niall Quinn: Late goals, penalty shoot-outs... the drama of the run has been incredible! The spirit of the club is alive and well. It's been a wonderful story for Sunderland and their passion on the pitch has been more than matched off it - the fans have been whipped into an unbelievable frenzy. There's a feeling at Sunderland that this doesn't come around too often and they want to make the most of it.
Jamie Redknapp: Sunderland have been brilliant under Gus Poyet. To get to any major final is an achievement, let alone beating Manchester United and Chelsea along the way. They've only lost one of their last five against Man City, too, so they'll have that belief. If you meet a team in the final who always beat you that can engulf you but Sunderland know the feeling of beating Man City and that will certainly help their confidence.
Man City are big favourites to lift the trophy on Sunday - so how do Sunderland stop them? And can they learn anything from Wigan last season?
Jamie Redknapp: When you play against sides like City a lot of things have to go your way: you need decisions from referees, your big players need to play well, you need a little bit of luck, you need your goalkeeper to be in brilliant form and Sunderland will need someone like Adam Johnson or Fabio Borini in attack to pull out a great performance. This is a great time to play City, though - you wouldn't have wanted to play them when they were thrashing everyone a few weeks ago - but all of a sudden those goals have dried up. The bad news for Sunderland is that Sergio Aguero looks like he's going to be fit but my guess is Pellegrini will stick with Costel Pantilimon in goal instead of Joe Hart and that'll give you hope because when the ball is close to his body he doesn't make good saves.
Kevin Phillips: Do Sunderland go and press high? Do they sit back? Gus has to get that balance of when to attack and when to sit back right. It's a big pitch at Wembley and if you go out gung-ho, with the quality City have got on that pitch, they'll pop it round you, take you apart and create chances. The midfield area will be key for Sunderland at the weekend. They need to keep Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri quiet and hope all their players are on top of their game - and half the City team aren't. If Sunderland get amongst City and try to unsettle them that's the only way they'll have a chance - but they'll have to do that for a full 90 minutes.
Niall Quinn: Gus Poyet and his men need to knock Man City out of their rhythm, not allow them to dictate the pace of the game and to have good possession. They can let City have the ball at the back all they want, as long as there's no gaps and the Man City skill and inventiveness can't get in behind. If David Silva has a good day it's going to be a tough, tough day for Sunderland. He's the one who continuously prizes open opportunities and gaps. His thought process is really good and for Sunderland to do well they're going to have to stop him for a start. They're going to have to keep XI men on the pitch, too, because that's been another problem of theirs. They need to look at what Wigan did; Wigan took the sting out of the game with good solid defending, worked really hard for each other, had the full-backs and wide players working as one and central midfielders pulling strings and making sure all gaps are closed. As Sunderland have been doing under Gus Poyet this season, they also need to knock the ball around when they get the chance. Instead of just giving it straight back, they need to try and retain the ball.
Niall Quinn: It can come into play; if the players are a bit startled by the occasion it's not going to be a memorable one for them. They're going to have to drive their emotions to the back of their mind and bring pure professionalism to the front and worry about the emotion after the event. The manager needs to relax the players - but some players can over-relax and not start well. So there's a fine balance the manager has to find. I'm fond of Gus Poyet, he's connected the fans back to the club after the Paolo Di Canio period in charge, the board and the chairman are totally in tune with what he is doing, the players have responded - and you'll see that connection in the way the crowd enjoy themselves at the weekend. And hopefully for Sunderland's sake that will move onto the pitch and give them the opportunity to equip themselves really well.
Kevin Phillips: City play in big games all the time - they played Barcelona at the Etihad just last week and they don't come much bigger than that. So they're used to the big occasion. But the Sunderland players will have had a look around the ground the day before the game and got used to the surroundings. Come kick-off, they have got experience in their line-up, too, particularly across the back four, which features players who have played in huge games - and you'd like to think their experience will help the other players.
With all that in mind, how do you see the game going on Sunday?
Jamie Redknapp: This competition, more than any other, throws up surprises in finals. Think of Birmingham beating Arsenal, Cardiff taking Liverpool to penalties... It's happened many times in this competition. If City aren't quite at it Sunderland can get a result if they perform to their maximum. Are they capable of doing it? Yes, of course they are. But the bookies have City hot favourites and rightly so. I'm going for City just to pip it 2-1. I don't see this being a foregone conclusion by any stretch of the imagination - it may even go to extra-time - but I reckon City will just come out on top.
Kevin Phillips: When I won this competition with Birmingham we were in a similar position to Sunderland. We were up against an Arsenal side doing well in the league while we were third or fourth from bottom, fighting relegation, and confidence wasn't high. But this is a one-off game and it's all down to who performs on the day, who takes their chances and who holds their nerve. Sunderland will need a little bit of luck - as Birmingham had in 2011 - but I'd love to see them pull it off. I didn't give them a chance at Old Trafford and they produced a remarkable result that evening so I'm not going to discount them. It's going to be very difficult but hopefully they can get it to extra-time or penalties - and then it's 50-50.
Niall Quinn: Man City are the overwhelming favourites and even the dogs in the street will tell you Man City will win the cup. But something tells me it's not going to be straight forward. When you put form and squad strength on the table you do point to Man City, but when you look at Sunderland beating Chelsea to get here, beating Manchester United to get here - why can't they beat Man City? The hardest thing about being a pundit is not to state the obvious and on this occasion I'll have Sunderland to trouble Man City and possibly get there after extra-time.