Liverpool v Manchester City: All you need to know about the Capital One Cup final
Full preview of Sunday afternoon's Capital One Cup final 2016 between Liverpool and Manchester City, including kick-off time, team news and latest odds
When's the game?
It's time for the generally incident-packed start to the business end of the season, or a frustratingly cumbersome fixture list anomaly. Nobody can quite make their minds up about the Capital One Cup.
And before we’ve even entered March, it’s time for the showpiece final at Wembley. Kick-off is at 4.30pm, on Sunday 28 February 2016.
What TV channel is showing it?
The match will be shown live on Sky Sports 1, with coverage beginning half an hour before kick-off, at 4pm.
What's the team news?
Jurgen Klopp revealed after his side’s skittish 1-0 win over Augsburg in the Europa League that his team have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the cup final.
He said: “We know we have no new injuries and we will try our damndest to produce a good performance.
“We certainly made the right decisions with the line-up (against Augsburg)."
In the European win, both Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho continued their returns to full fitness by featuring for more than an hour, and the pair are expected to start against City.
Manchester City are also expected to field a strong team, and will
likely call on their strong spine of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero – five players who have played together just twice since the beginning of August.
Defender Pablo Zabaleta admitted after his club’s victory over Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League that the return of the club’s core group will make them strong contenders on Sunday.
He said: “Those players are like the spine of the team.
“Vinny has been out for long periods, Silva the same, we lost Aguero with a bad injury too. You need your best players in their best form if you are going to be a strong team.
“From now until the end is the time when we have to work hard, push together.
“We’ve got big games coming up and there is still a great chance for this football club to have success at the end of it.”
If the five do take to the field together, it will mean reserve goalkeeper Willy Caballero – who has until now been Manuel Pellegrini’s unofficial cup goalkeeper – will be relegated back to a spot on the bench.
Where will match be won and lost?
1. The star partnerships
Manchester City have Sergio Aguero and David Silva. Liverpool have Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho. And whichever pair win this battle of the diminutive forwards are likely to decide the outcome of this fixture.
Both Aguero and Sturridge are formidable goal-scorers but both have suffered from interrupted season because of injury, and their strike-rate has suffered accordingly. Silva and Coutinho have also suffered their share of injury problems, although Silva’s encouraging performance against Kyiv in the Champions League perhaps means he is the man heading into this fixture in the better form.
2. The engine-room
Liverpool’s shock 4-1 win over Manchester City earlier in the season was made possible by the superb performances of Jurgen Klopp’s midfielders.
Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana all pressed high up the pitch, and James Milner and Emre Can behind them were able to effectively neutralise the play behind them as a result.
The midfield battle will again be key. Against Tottenham, Pellegrini moved Yaya Toure further up the pitch to little effect, and was rewarded with a better performance when he fielded him in a deeper role against Kyiv. His battle with Milner will be fascinating.
3. In goal
Pellegrini must have the strength of conviction to drop Willy Caballero and to play Joe Hart instead of him. Caballero is not a bad reserve goalkeeper – in fact, he is arguably the best in the Premier League – but he is not as good as Hart and with City’s defence frequently exposed in recent weeks, Hart has to play.
Liverpool will meanwhile be hoping the notoriously gaffe-prone Simon Mignolet has one of his better games in goal.
What are they saying?
"Winning a trophy with Liverpool would mean a lot to me. It is a very important game. We have a good chance to win the trophy and we have to give everything to take this opportunity. Everyone knows it is very important.
"I am also happy because I am back playing. It was a bad time for me when I was out of the squad with injury but I am happy now. I hope I can give my best between now and the end of the season and help my teammates.” - Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool
"It would be fantastic to win this trophy. We are involved in the Premier League title race and it would set us fair for the rest of the season. It is important to win as many as we can. [In 2014] it almost relaxed us to go on and challenge for more that season.
"Couple together the signings since that date with the players already here, I think we have strengthened. If we can win this weekend it will be great.
It will be an entertaining final, every game is different and we need to think of ourselves. Other important games follow, but first we must concentrate on this final. Our manager is focused, prepares well and is very demanding and will do it again for this final." - Jesus Navas, Manchester City
Manchester City: 23/17
Liverpool to edge a narrow contest.