Manchester City favoured to beat Sunderland in League Cup final
Form points to decisive win in final for City, however, with over 2.5 goals worth backing
The League Cup is the one competition in English football where the smaller clubs can harbour a realistic chance of success and a Sunderland victory over Manchester City tomorrow wouldn't be as surprising as City's loss to Wigan in last year's FA Cup final.
But Manuel Pellegrini has put out a strong side all the way through City's cup run, during which they have won four times and drawn once from five games in 90-minute play and have an overall record of 19 goals for and only one against (taking extra-time into account).
Now that Champions League success seems highly improbable, this could be the first leg of a domestic treble and Pellegrini is likely to put out his best available side.
Going on most of their recent form, City should not let this opportunity slip. They are unbeaten in their last eight games against teams from the bottom half of the Premier League (seven wins and one draw) and the only teams to have beaten them in their last 25 games are Barcelona and Chelsea.
Sunderland are not in that class, of course, but they will take hope from the fact that they were the last team to beat City before that 25-game run (1-0 at the Stadium of Light in early November) and from their excellent cup form that has seen them knock out Chelsea and Manchester United.
Since Gus Poyet took charge in October, they have won three and lost four of their seven games against big-six opponents. But all three wins were at home and they have conceded in six of the seven.
Although the clean sheet was against City, Pellegrini's side have been more difficult to stop since then. They have scored in 22 of their last 25 games, winning 20 of those 22 scoring games, and that points to the likelihood that Sunderland will need a clean sheet if they are going to win.
It is a slight concern for City backers that the goals have dried up a little, with a 0-0 at Norwich and a 1-0 home win over Stoke in their last two league games, but their form suggests they will win decisively. Fourteen of their 20 wins during their latest set of 25 games have been achieved by two goals or more and they look a good bet on the handicap.
Over 2.5 goals is also worth backing, as League Cup finals tend to be more open than the FA Cup equivalent, especially when they are not contested by two closely matched big-six teams. Over 2.5 goals has occurred in six of the last seven finals involving at least one team from outside the big six.
Even with City otherwise engaged, only one Premier League match does not have an odds-on favourite: Hull at home to Newcastle. The Tigers were identified as a team to watch in last week's preview and they certainly caught the eye with their 4-0 victory at Cardiff.
Newcastle are a much tougher proposition, on paper at least, but their form has dipped since the sale of star midfielder Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain and this looks a good chance for Hull to cement their upturn in form.
With Daniel Sturridge closing in on Ruud Van Nistelrooy's record of scoring in 10 consecutive Premier League games, Liverpool have to be considered away to Southampton. The Reds have won 11 out of 19 when Sturridge and Luis Suarez have started together, although only two of those were on the road.
Aston Villa (three home wins out of 13) and Swansea (four home wins out of 13) look the riskiest odds-on bets, even against fellow strugglers.
Wigan, Watford, Brentford, Atletico Madrid, Verona