Capital One Cup Final – Fantasy Players to Watch
Sunday afternoon sees the first English trophy of the season handed out, with Manchester City taking on Liverpool in the Capital One Cup final.
Jürgen Klopp has a chance to win the first silverware of his Reds career, while the departing City manager Manuel Pellegrini is seeking his second League Cup title at the club.
It promises to be a thrilling match despite both sides being involved in European competitions this week, with the clubs having never previously played each other in a major cup final.
But who are the six fantasy players to look out for in the big game? Read on to find out.
Liverpool thrashed City 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium in November and their outstanding player on that day was the brilliant Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho.
When he is on form Coutinho is simply unplayable and he is Liverpool’s key player. With Coutinho pulling the strings for Daniel Sturridge, the future could be very bright indeed for Klopp’s side.
Coutinho’s five goals and five assists in 18 Premier League matches this season make him Liverpool’s highest ranked player by WhoScored this season – the 23-year-old is rated at 7.27.
Much of the pre-match cup final build-up has focussed on Raheem Sterling and understandably so given the young England international left Liverpool for City in a £49 million move last summer.
The 21-year-old’s debut City season has been solid but unspectacular. Wembley-born Sterling has hit 10 goals for City, five of which have been in the Premier League, with a hat-trick against Bournemouth in October a highlight of his campaign.
He was also outstanding in City’s 3-1 Champions League win at Dynamo Kyiv on Wednesday, setting up the first two goals for his side and stepping up in the absence of Kevin De Bruyne.
Sterling will feel his decision to swap Anfield for City was justified if he lifts the trophy on Sunday.
While Sterling has grabbed most of the headlines ahead of the cup final, City’s chances of glory on Sunday rest squarely on the slight shoulders of their star striker Sergio Agüero.
It has been another injury-affected campaign for the Argentina international, who has still plundered 19 goals to keep his side in the hunt for three trophies.
When fit, Agüero is one of the world’s deadliest strikers, with his record of scoring 16 goals from 17 Champions League starts an indication of his huge talent.
Liverpool need to keep Agüero quiet, but that is much easier said than done and the Argentinian is available at £14.6m in Sunday’s global contests on Mondogoal.
The third South American on our list of fantasy players to watch in Sunday’s cup final is Roberto Firmino, with the Brazil international having found top form since the appointment of Klopp.
Firmino, who describes Klopp as the best coach he has worked with, has hit six goals and recorded seven assists since the German replaced Brendan Rodgers in the Anfield dugout.
Surprisingly, Firmino has been more statistically effective than Coutinho this season, beating his international teammate with six goals and six assists from 17 Premier League starts.
Although Agüero and Sterling can be superb in attack, it is arguable that City’s key player is their centre-back and captain Vincent Kompany.
Like Agüero, injuries have disrupted the Belgium international’s campaign and City have struggled to cope without him. City have won 67 per cent of games Kompany has played and only 59 per cent when he is missing.
From Kompany’s nine Premier League starts, City have kept seven clean sheets this season, compared to just four shutouts from 17 matches without their leader.
Kompany is fit but there is a question mark over the goalkeeper playing behind him, with Pellegrini expected to controversially stick with his Capital One Cup keeper Willy Caballero rather than playing his regular number one, England international Joe Hart. Caballero was utterly dreadful as City were knocked out of the FA Cup in the fifth round after a 5-1 defeat at Chelsea last weekend.
Liverpool also have problems in goal, with many holding doubts over Kompany’s compatriot Simon Mignolet, who was handed a new long-term contract to stay at Anfield last month.
Mignolet has a known weakness from crosses and set pieces but his shot-stopping is good and he has been known to save penalties, which could be useful should Sunday’s final go the distance.
Not only did Mignolet save a spot kick on his Liverpool debut, against Stoke City, he saved from Marc Muniesa and Peter Crouch against the same team in the semi-final shoot-out to book Liverpool’s final place.
Sergio Agüero £14.6m on Mondogoal (vs Liverpool, £100m Budget)