The battle between Sunderland and Manchester City has captivated a Continent, according to Black Cats head coach Gustavo Poyet.
For the first time in English football history, Cup final teams will be led out by South American bosses with Uruguayan Poyet facing Chilean Manuel Pellegrini, who bosses Manchester City. Poyet acknowledges that will be a huge point of interest for both countries, with Uruguayan loyalties set to transfer from Liverpool to Wearside for the weekend.
“It is special for South America and there is a bit of rivalry between Chile and Uruguay and it is incredible,” he said.
“From now, most people in Uruguay support Liverpool because of Luis Suarez but you would be surprised how many support Sunderland now, slowly because they have been on TV for the big games like Manchester United and Chelsea and they go with you when you go through which is natural.
“Someone told me they were watching the game in Uruguay and Phil Bardsley scored in the semi-final against Manchester United and they celebrated and then there was silence when United scored.
“They don’t know why, but at that time they felt they needed to support Sunderland because they are Uruguayan and that becomes worldwide.
“It shows how much football in this country makes across the world and do well and they become more supportive of the club.”
Of course, a victorious weekend would help Sunderland’s South American appeal hugely.
Debate continues to rage about who Poyet should turn to to lead his forward line, with Jozy Altidore’s claims under serious scrutiny after the lethargic performance at Arsenal. The Sunderland boss has offered encouragement to both Steven Fletcher and Emanuele Giaccherini (pictured right), who scored a classy consolation goal in North London, but it was instructive that the Black Cats chief spoke of form being a huge factor in his selection. As expected, the Sunderland boss has confirmed that “eight or nine” players have picked themselves for Sunday’s showpiece final.
He said: “I’ve got eight or nine that I know will play, but there are still a couple of things that will depend on what I see this week.
“It depends how well they do the basics. We need to do the right things all the time and that means every day in training.
“If someone is going through a bad time or bad form, then I’m not going to take any risks in the final. You need to look for special players in special positions, and that’s why it’s not that clear.
“We don’t have that (Cristiano) Ronaldo or (Lionel) Messi that will play whatever. But I’ve got an idea of how I want to start the game, and the rest will depend on the players.”