Juan Mata v Maya Yoshida will be the key battle in the EFL Cup final

Juan Mata's battle with Maya Yoshida could be key at Wembley

Will Maya Yoshida be able to shackle Juan Mata when Southampton and Manchester United go head to head at Wembley? We analyse the key battle in Sunday's EFL Cup final live on Sky Sports...

Manchester United and Southampton met int the 1976 FA Cup final, when Saints beat United 1-0 in what remains the only major honour in the club's 132-year history. By contrast, United have 43 major trophies to their name.

One of the most intriguing match-ups in their upcoming encounter pits United's goal-scoring midfielder Juan Mata against Saints' clean-sheet king Maya Yoshida.

Live EFL Cup Final

Mata has scored in each of his two appearances in the EFL Cup this season, while Yoshida has played every minute of Saints' EFL Cup campaign, helping them keep five consecutive clean sheets. In doing so, Southampton have become the first side to reach the final of the competition without conceding since Tottenham in 1982.

Southampton's clean sheet record will be tested by Mata. Since he came to England to join Chelsea in August 2011, the Spain international has been involved in 87 goals in 188 Premier League appearances. No other midfielder has been involved in more Premier League goals during this time.

Top scoring PL midfielders and top assist makers since August 2011

Player Goals Player Assists
Yaya Toure 53 David Silva 54
Eden Hazard 51 Juan Mata 42
Alexis Sanchez 46 Wayne Rooney 40
Juan Mata 45 Mesut Ozil 37
Theo Walcott 45 Santi Cazorla 35

Since he made the move from Chelsea to Manchester United in January 2014, only Wayne Rooney has scored more goals for the club. His record at United stands at 35 goals and 21 assists in 138 games.

Man Utd's top scorers since Mata's debut in January 2014

Player Goals
Wayne Rooney 42
Juan Mata 35
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 24
Anthony Martial 24
Robin van Persie 18

The 28-year-old has nine goals and four assists this season. Only Zlatan Ibrahimovic has more goals for United in 2016-17. What's more impressive is that in his 25 starts this season, United have lost only once, a 1-0 Europa League defeat at Feyenoord last September. He is unbeaten in his last 21 starts for United, winning 16.

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Man Utd with and without Juan Mata starting

2016/17 P W D L Win % Team goals Team goals/game
With Mata 25 19 5 1 76% 53 2.1
Without Mata 17 8 4 5 47% 24 1.4

It's an impressive record, but the stand-out statistic for Mata is his record in major cup finals in Europe. He's won all six that he's played in for club and country, scoring in three of them.

Juan Mata's cup final record

Season Competition Team Result
2007/08 Copa del Rey Valencia 3-1 v Getafe (scored)
2011/12 FA Cup Chelsea 2-1 v Liverpool
2011/12 Champions League Chelsea 1-1 v Bayern (won on pens)
2012 Euro 2012 Spain 4-0 v Italy (scored)
2012/13 Europa League Chelsea 2-1 v Benfica
2015/16 FA Cup final Man Utd 2-1 v Crystal Palace (scored)

He's also won three other titles with Spain. He was a member of the 2010 World Cup winning squad and also won the 2011 UEFA U21 Championship and the 2006 UEFA U19 Championship. Mata will be eager to add an EFL Cup winners' medal to his haul.

Stephane Ruffier of Saint-Etienne attempts to stop Juan Mata of Manchester United during the UEFA Europa  League
Image: Juan Mata has impressed for Manchester United in recent weeks

Mata is no stranger to Wembley, having previously played there seven times. His last appearance at the arena came when he played the first 45 minutes of Spain's 2-2 friendly draw with England last November. He scored in Manchester United's FA Cup final win against Crystal Palace last season and in Chelsea's 5-1 FA Cup semi-final win over Tottenham in 2012.

In contrast to Mata's impeccable cup final record, this will be Yoshida's first major cup final experience. He has played at Wembley before, captaining Japan in their 3-1 semi-final defeat to Mexico at the 2012 Olympics.

Yoshida has won 11 of his 12 EFL Cup appearances with Southampton, conceding only four goals in the process. He is Saints' only EFL Cup ever-present this season. They have yet to concede despite facing 58 shots in five games.

Maya Yoshida headed Southampton into a 2-1 lead
Image: Southampton's Maya Yoshida celebrates a recent goal against Norwich

Yoshida has played without first-choice partner Virgil van Dijk alongside him in three of Saints' EFL Cup games this season, and that will also be the case in the final due to the Dutchman's injury.

The 28-year-old Japanese centre-back is in his fifth season at Southampton, having joined from Dutch side VVV Venlo for £2m in August 2012. The stats below suggest that this season is set to be his best yet at St Mary's.

Maya Yoshida's Premier League improvement

Season Shots faced per 90 Duels won per 90 Passing accuracy Passing accuracy in own half
2012/13 11.6 5.4 76% 89%
2013/14 8.4 5.8 81% 91%
2014/15 9.8 5.3 81% 88%
2015/16 13.1 3.5 80% 90%
2016/17 8.9 6.5 85% 91%

Yoshida will be a key part of a Saints rearguard looking to keep Mata at bay. The Spaniard, meanwhile, will be seeking to add yet another winner's medal to his already bulging collection.

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