Pitchside Europe

Pellegrini can – and must – finally break trophy duck

At of the time of writing, Manuel Pellegrini had not won a single trophy in nine years and eight months managing in Europe.

A managerial career that has encompassed five years at perennial also-rans Villarreal, a flop of a season at Real Madrid, that unusual spell at Malaga and, of course, now at Manchester City.

Not to say Pellegrini is a poor coach – his teams play fantastic attacking football, and he conducts himself with a grace lacking in many of his contemporaries. Every team he has managed has been the better for it, even if he hasn’t lined their corridors with silver and gold.

This has been discussed on these pages before, but his teams have a tendency to capitulate, and his defensive nous is dubious at best.

Well it’s a good thing City are facing Sunderland, then, in Sunday's League Cup final. A Sunderland side who – while improved under Gus Poyet - are still ordinary at best, and certainly struggle under serious attacking pressure.

Indeed, Sunderland were abject at Arsenal last weekend, an Arsenal side who are similar to City in style and effectiveness, if not in level of quality going forward.

City should bounce back from their flop against Barcelona and the unconvincing win over Norwich; they should also score a hatful, and you really cannot see Sunderland getting more than one or two, even if Martin Demichelis is given yet another inexplicable appearance fee.

Pellegrini is acutely aware of the expectation.

"The Capital One Cup gives us a chance to lift everyone and then we go from there and hopefully keep improving. A cup final is always special and this one is a chance for us to take a very positive step forward this season.

"Do we talk about winning trophies all the time? No, we don't and that is the correct way to do things.

"Manchester City is now a major club and only at the end of the season can you look at what you have done. That is the time to celebrate."

His fellow South American Poyet is revelling in his underdog status:

"Leaders are important - they have the ability and experience and we count on them heavily.

"I can tell you this - when you walk out and see the stadium full with all the fans and all the noise, and you've never been there, it's a new situation so it's going to be a different feeling.

"You can't prepare yourself for what you're going to feel when you walk out. Some players will cope within one minute; some will take 15 minutes to settle down."

How both sides cope with that will be key to the outcome. In technical and physical terms, there is no comparison.

But City’s FA Cup final defeat to Wigan last term proved just how much coping with the mental pressure can contribute to such an occasion.