The FA Cup will be up for grabs when Manchester City lock horns with Watford at Wembley, hoping to complete their domestic treble.
The end of the English season is nearly upon us and one of the top prizes will be on the line on Saturday. Manchester City and Watford face off against each other at Wembley, London in the 138th FA Cup final, with the newly crowned Premier League champions chasing the domestic treble.
Manchester City have had another season to remember, although 2018-19 might be remembered for their inability to complete an unprecedented quadruple as well. But, the domestic treble still remains a possibility, with Pep Guardiola’s men already lifting the EFL Cup and the Premier League trophy.
This past week, City became the first club in a decade to win back-to-back Premier League titles, edging Liverpool by just a solitary point. Watford, on the other hand, are likely to reminisce about the 2018-19 campaign fondly.
While the Hornets did finish just outside the top half of the table, they have been one of the most-improved sides of the season. The campaign though, will be talked off largely due to their brilliant run to the FA Cup final, with Javi Gracia’s men completing a dramatic comeback win over Wolves in the semi-finals.
Manchester City and Watford have already clashed twice this season, in the Premier League, with City prevailing in both the matches. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the FA Cup final.
Team News & Tactics
Pep Guardiola does not have any pressing injury concerns ahead of his side’s final game of the season. On Saturday, the Manchester City boss will only be without one first-team player, with Claudio Bravo still not fit enough to return to action.
The likes of Benjamin Mendy, Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne are all fit, although it remains to be seen if they all start. Mendy though, stands no chance of returning to the starting lineup, with Oleksandr Zinchenko stepping up marvelously this season to make the left-back slot his own.
The rest of the backline is unlikely to see any change either, with Aymeric Laporte and Vincent Kompany forging a strong partnership at the heart of the Manchester City defence lately, while Kyle Walker is a certain starter on the right. There is no looking past Ederson Moraes in goal.
The Brazilian goalkeeper will play a key role once again in the build-up play. Up ahead in midfield, Fernandinho might miss out against Watford, seeing as Ilkay Gundogan has looked comfortable in the holding midfield role in recent weeks.
De Bruyne though, ought to return to the starting lineup, forming the creative hub for Manchester City in the middle of the park alongside David Silva. De Bruyne’s return would mean Bernardo Silva starts in the attacking unit once again, with Riyad Mahrez missing out.
Bernardo Silva will have Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero for company, with Mahrez, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus providing attacking options off the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Gundogan, David Silva; Bernardo Silva, Aguero, Sterling
Javi Gracia has only welcomed good news ahead of the FA Cup final. The Watford boss will have star forward Gerard Deulofeu available, with the Spaniard recovering from a dead leg he sustained in the Hornets’ final Premier League game of the season last week.
Another piece of good news for Gracia is that left-back Jose Holebas will not be suspended as was earlier feared, after the FA rescinded the red card he received against West Ham United. Holebas should slot in at the left-back slot, with Craig Cathcart and Christian Kabasele forming the central defensive partnership.
Kiko Femenia is expected to complete the defensive line that will provide cover to Huerelho Gomes, who will be playing for the final time for Watford on Saturday. Meanwhile, the onus will be on the two midfielders to shut down the spaces for the Manchester City creative men.
Etienne Capoue will thus, play a key role in the middle of the park, with Abdoulaye Doucoure giving him company in the Watford engine room. Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes will be the two attacking midfielders that will be looking to exploit the half spaces.
Upfront, Deulofeu will line up alongside Troy Deeney, with the Watford captain looking to use his imposing figure to put pressure on Vincent Kompany.
Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Gomes; Femenia, Kabasele, Cathcart, Holebas; Doucoure, Capoue; Hughes, Pereyra; Deulofeu, Deeney
- Watford are on a 10-game losing streak against Manchester City in all competitions and are winless in 15 since a 1-0 victory in the second tier back in March 1989.
- This will be the first FA Cup final between two managers of the same nationality since 2008 (Dave Jones and Harry Redknapp). It’s only the second time it has happened with non-British managers: Frenchmen Arsene Wenger and Gerard Houllier went head-to-head in 2001.
- No team to finish in the bottom half of the top-flight table has ever beaten the side to win the league in an FA Cup final.
- Watford’s only previous FA Cup final appearance came in 1984, when they lost 2-0 to Everton. Their 35-year wait for a second FA Cup final is the longest since 1967, when Chelsea appeared 52 years after first featuring in 1915.
- Sergio Aguero has scored 10 goals in just seven appearances against Watford in all competitions, including two hat-tricks.
Player to Watch
Manchester City might not have been running rampant of late, but they still retain their ruthless efficacy in the middle of the park. And, if there is something the Premier League run-in showed, it’s that the Citizens can struggle if their supply line is cut. That responsibility will be on Etienne Capoue on Saturday.
The Frenchman is fresh off winning Watford’s Player of the Year award, and will be raring to go in the final game of the season. His responsibility will be to keep an eye on the forward balls by David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, and if he can manage to restrict the two Manchester City superstars, we might just have a thriller on our hands.
Manchester City 2-1 Watford
Two teams that are coming into the FA Cup final on the back of contrasting runs of form will meet at Wembley. While Manchester City did not look back after their elimination from the Champions League, Watford have failed to win each of their last five games.
But, a retiring Huerelho Gomes can be expected to be in inspired form, while Gerard Deulofeu will be a major threat with his bagful of tricks. Manchester City though, have shown that it takes a whole lot to keep them at bay completely, and they should do more than enough to get over the line in the end.
No side has ever won the domestic treble since the introduction of EFL Cup, and Pep Guardiola & co. can be expected to make history on Saturday. The Hard Tackle predicts a keenly contested affair, with Manchester City narrowly winning 2-1 to lift the FA Cup.