Still chasing silverware on four fronts, Manchester
City have their first chance of a trophy against Sunderland
in the Capital
One Cup final on Sunday but Samir Nasri is no stranger to how
quickly a season can unravel at this point.
Three years ago, Nasri and Arsenal were in a similar situation, four points
behind league leaders Manchester United, in the FA Cup quarter-finals and
with a 2-1 first-leg advantage from their Champions League last-16 tie with
Barcelona, as they prepared for the League Cup final against Birmingham.
After Obafemi Martins’s 89th-minute goal gave Alex McLeish’s side a shock
victory, Arsène Wenger’s side fell apart, managing just two more wins in
their remaining 14 matches. There is little wonder, then, why Nasri is in no
doubt about how pivotal Sunday could be.
“I don’t have good memories in the Cup because I lost the final with Arsenal,”
Nasri said after making his second start following a month out with a knee
injury. “It can be [a good platform for the rest of the season] but I have
the [bad] experience with Arsenal. So a win would be really important for us
and for the confidence.”
Yaya Touré turned in from Aleksandar Kolarov’s cross with 20 minutes remaining
to keep City three points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand and a
superior goal difference. Nasri feels that the win over Mark Hughes’s side,
no matter how forgettable, could prove to be significant.
“It was a boost for the team. After the midweek defeat, we were all down,
because of the circumstances but we did the job,” Nasri added. “We were not
really fresh and playing against a team who has 10 at the back is always
difficult, especially after playing a team like Barcelona.
“You don’t have to rush against these kinds of teams, just because they are
bigger than you, they are taller than you. You have to play and that’s what
While Stevan Jovetic is likely to be on the sidelines once again after a
hamstring problem forced him off just 12 minutes into his appearance as a
substitute, Sergio Agüero is set to return to full training from a similar
injury on Tuesday to boost Pellegrini’s flagging attack.
With Álvaro Negredo working his way back to fitness after a shoulder injury
and Edin Dzeko, who flicked a shot against his own leg three yards from an
open goal, mis-firing, Agüero’s return is timely.
“Agüero can give us all a huge lift, not just for the Capital One Cup final
but for the rest of the season because, for me, he is one of the top five
players in the world,” Pellegrini said.
“He has been unlucky this season. He has had two long injuries but when he’s
fully fit, he is a player who can make the difference. I’m expected to win
trophies here, so I will be very happy to win on Sunday with the style of
football we have been playing.”
City are only three points above City’s Capital One Cup opponents in
18th spot but having frustrated Pellegrini’s team, who have managed just one
goal against them this season, they are confident of giving Arsenal a
similar scare at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
“What we need to do following on from this is that when we’re going up against
teams in and around us that we take maximum points rather than patting
ourselves on the back because we’ve put in a good performance and been
beaten,” Hughes said.
“It was important to come here and not be steamrolled like the vast majority
of teams and goal difference is going to be a key thing.”