Poyet dangles Cup final carrot

Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet has told his players they still have time to play themselves into his Capital One Cup final team.

Gustavo Poyet of Sunderland

The Black Cats head for Arsenal on Saturday, just eight days before they meet Manchester City at Wembley with the season's first major trophy at stake.

However, while Poyet admits he knows most of his team for the big day, there could still be opportunities available.

Asked if players will be competing for places at the Emirates Stadium, he said: "No doubt, no doubt.

"Managers will always have seven or eight we will pick if they are fit, which leaves three or four which are always available for people depending on what they do or how they feel.

"I hope nothing happens next week so I can make the decisions based on performance and what we need.

"It could be an illness, it could be a virus, it could be anything, and then somebody who is not expecting to be there then is there, and you want that person to be very good because you know the team is going to be affected.

"If (the final) was this week I would have no complaints because everybody has been spot-on, so we will see."

Indeed, Poyet is convinced, judging by what he has seen in training this week, that his players are putting every second to good use in an effort to catch his eye.

He said: "I don't want to exaggerate because then we go and we lose 5-0 and you will be laughing at me next week, but this is one of the best weeks we have had in training, one of the best.

"Call it whatever - excitement or freshness or people confident because of what they have done on the pitch or what is coming, Arsenal and Manchester City and they want to be there - you can put it down to whatever.

"But I can tell you that in terms of quality and the quantity, it's been the best week."

Only one thing is certain for the trip to Wembley, and that is that January signing Liam Bridcutt will not be involved having already played in the competition for former club Brighton this season.

But that has left his manager with a decision to make over whether to play him at Arsenal and keep automatic replacement Lee Cattermole in reserve.

Poyet said: "That's the biggest decision of the week. Have I made that decision? No, because every time I make a decision early in the week, something happens during the week and everything goes away and then I need to play him anyway.

"We will see, but it's probably the biggest decision I have got because we need to be very smart."

The Capital One Cup, of course, is one of three competitions in which Sunderland are still engaged and while that and the FA Cup could yet bring glory, it is the meat and drink of Barclays Premier League action which most concerns Poyet.

His side have slipped back into the relegation zone and still have a desperate fight for survival on their hands.

Nevertheless, the Black Cats will travel this weekend with nothing other than victory on their minds.

Poyet said: "I don't know if you can plan better for a final than playing away at the Emirates a week before playing Manchester City at Wembley.

"It's a perfect 'friendly'. It's not a friendly, it's three points, but it's perfection for us, so it's going to give us a big opportunity to see if we can really go and play in a certain way against Manchester City as well."


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