Pitchside Europe

Finalists hoping to avoid Wembley curse

A trip to Wembley is looming large for Manchester City and Sunderland, as they prepare to do battle for the first major silverware of the season in Sunday's Capital One Cup Final.

The occasion itself will be more appreciated by the fans and players of the obvious underdogs, but, if they do manage a big upset, Gus Poyet and co. will be hoping that the curse that has hit recent winners does not strike them down too.

[PELLEGRINI MUST END TROPHY DROUGHT]

The Black Cats had been looking resurgent until recent losses to Hull and Arsenal and looked good value to find a way out of the battle at the bottom and towards safety. Now, in the drop zone and with their minds firmly set on beating another Manchester club to take home the trophy, having seen off Manchester United on penalties in the semi-final, their Premier League status could be in danger.

Look back to a year ago, and Swansea were flying in the Premier League under Michael Laudrup, on a run of two losses in 10 matches and up against League 2 Bradford in the final. They won resoundingly, but the jubilation of claiming a cup took a shine off playing out the rest of the season.

The Swans went on to win only two of their remaining 11 games, gaining just nine points in the process. The dual requirements of domestic competition and Europa League qualification proved too much for the club to handle, and Laudrup was relieved of his duties early in February.

His dismissal came as something of a shock to most, but that shouldn't really have been the case. In fact, the Dane became the fifth of the last six League Cup-winning managers to be sacked by the time the next final came around. It seems that winning the trophy - unless you are the untouchable Sir Alex Ferguson - is something of a curse.

The end of the 2011/12 season saw Liverpool suffer wholly indifferent form which led to Kenny Dalglish's dismissal, and a year earlier Alex McLeish's Birmingham beat Arsenal when few expected them to, but then went on to be relegated and have yet to return to the top flight.

Juande Ramos was sacked after leading Spurs to their first trophy since 1999 and then their worst ever start to a Premier League season, and League Cup glory even preceded Jose Mourinho leaving Chelsea in 2007.

If Manchester City were to win on Sunday and their season was to fall apart, there is every reason to believe the powers that be at the club would consider the season a failure, given the vast sums that have been spent at the Etihad since Manuel Pellegrini took charge.

They are currently still in with a hope of winning a quadruple, and actually stand a decent chance of a domestic treble. Given that this competition is far from their main priority this season, there is little chance that the Chilean manager will allow his talented squad to relax after this weekend's final, so it would take a monumental collapse for City's season to take such a bleak turn.

Nonetheless, as history dictates, this match has been a banana skin in the past and could be one for this weekend's participants. Poyet will want to take this huge opportunity to bring rare silverware to Sunderland, but he, in particular, will have to be careful of what happens in the next year if he does indeed lift the trophy.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.