Ruthlessness up front and at the back are the only way Sunderland can lift the League Cup at Wembley, according to Gary Bennett.
Manchester City had a shaky start to the season but since the Black Cats’ 1-0 win in November, Manuel Pellegrini’s men have only been beaten by Chelsea and Barcelona.
Sunderland’s odds are as long as 10-1 with some bookmakers. “They definitely have a chance though realistically, City will have to be below their best, we’ll have to play well and a bit of luck would come in handy too,” says Bennett, who watches the Black Cats home and away for BBC Radio Newcastle.
“It’s a case of being rock solid at the back and clinical up front.
“It’s all about taking those chances when they come your way.
“Back in 1985, Clive Walker missed a penalty (against Norwich City in the League Cup final), while in the FA Cup final, we matched Liverpool early on and had the better first half chances but John Byrne, who’d scored in every round, couldn’t take them.”
The Black Cats are also something of a bogey side for City, beating them 1-0 three times in the last five games. There has also been a 3-3 draw.
Win or lose on Sunday, Bennett can at least take satisfaction from the improvement he has seen in his old club since Gustavo Poyet took the reins in October.
Poyet inherited a team cut adrift at the bottom of the table with one point from nine matches. They are still in the relegation zone but the gap to safety is a point with a game in hand over West Bromwich Albion, one of the teams still to come to the Stadium of Light.
This week they play in a Wembley cup final and victory over Hull City seven days later will book a return trip to the famous ground. By anyone’s measure, it is progress.
“The club was on its knees when he (Poyet) replaced Paolo Di Canio but he’s given both players and supporters hope and belief again,” comments Bennett. “Losing to Arsenal on Saturday was a blow but the improvement is there for all to see.
“The team is well organised, pass the ball around and the weekend apart, are generally hard to beat.
“City are oozing quality but don’t rule out Sunderland producing a famous upset.
“They’ve already beaten Southampton, Chelsea and Manchester United in the competition and City in the league so they’re definitely capable of it.”