FA Cup Final Team Guide: Manchester City vs Watford
After wrapping up the Premier League title, Manchester City have the chance to become the first team to win the domestic treble when they face Watford in the FA Cup final.
The 138th FA Cup final takes place at Wembley Stadium at 5:00pm on Saturday 18th May live on BBC One and BT Sport 2.
It’s the last match of the domestic season and we’ve taken a look at both side’s route to the final, as well as the players that could decide the tie. Check out the latest betting odds for the FA Cup Final at Coral!
Are this Manchester City side the best in Premier League history? They’ve made a strong case over the last two seasons, racking up an astonishing tally of 198 points and scoring 201 goals.
However, the club have yet to win the FA Cup under Pep Guardiola. They were lost to Arsenal in the semi-finals during Guardiola’s first year in charge. And they lost to Wigan Athletic in a huge fifth-round upset last term.
The Cityzens are looking for a sixth FA Cup win this weekend, having previously won the final in 1904, 1934, 1956, 1969 and 2011. A victory at Wembley would see them move level with Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United on six wins. Only Arsenal (13), Manchester United (12), Chelsea (8), Tottenham Hotspur (8), Aston Villa (7) and Liverpool (7) would have more.
Who is Manchester City manager?
As mentioned earlier, Pep Guardiola has taken City to a level of consistency the Premier League has never seen before.
City play stunning football, based on the ideas of Johan Cruyff. City look to control possession as much as they can, which is a defensive tactic as well as an offensive one – the opposition can’t score if they don’t have the ball.
Having started as Barcelona manager in 2008, Guardiola is arguably the most successful and influential manager of his generation.
He’s won the title in nine of his 11 seasons as a manager at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now City. The 48-year-old has also won two Champions League titles, though he hasn’t reached the final since 2011.
Man City Lineup: Key players to watch out for
Sergio Aguero finished the league campaign with 21 goals. He’s now scored at least 20 league goals for five consecutive seasons, a feat only Arsenal legend Thierry Henry had previously managed.
Aguero has always been a sensational finisher, but he’s developed his overall game to become an even better player under Guardiola. If he gets a sight of goal at Wembley, you’d back him to make it count.
Raheem Sterling has also had a standout season on and off the pitch. He’s raised his game to another level, scoring 17 goals and registering 12 assists in the top flight.
The winger has become one of the players that Guardiola relies on, becoming so consistent that Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez often have to settle for a place on the bench.
Bernardo Silva has also had a superb season on an individual level. After getting to grips with English football in his first year, he’s been one of the best players in the country this time around.
The former Monaco playmaker joined Aguero and Sterling in the PFA Team of the Year, having been so impressive that City barely missed the frequently-injured Kevin De Bruyne. Whether he plays centrally or out wide, Silva combines technique with real tenacity, making him the ideal modern midfielder.
This could also be City captain Vincent Kompany’s final game for the club. His contract expires this summer and it’s not clear yet whether he will sign an extension.
The 33-year-old has already written his name in City’s history books many times over, but if this is to be farewell, lifting the FA Cup trophy would be the perfect way to bow out.
Kompany doesn’t play every week anymore, but he’s still the man City turn to when the stakes are high.
He started each of their final four games in the run-in. And when it looked like they weren’t going to break down Leicester City in the penultimate league game, Kompany unleased a rocket from distance that arrowed into the top corner. That strike was named Goal of the Season on Match of the Day.
Route to the final
City’s FA Cup campaign stared with a comfortable 7-0 win over Championship side Rotherham United in the third round. Sterling, Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus, Mahrez, Nicolas Otamendi and Sane all got on the scoresheet at the Etihad.
Fellow Premier League side Burnley came to town in the fourth round and were also dispatched without any fuss. The 5-0 victory saw goals from Jesus, Bernardo, De Bruyne and Aguero.
Newport County were rewarded with a visit from the champions after knocking out Leicester City and Middlesbrough. City won 4-1 at Rodney Parade, with Phil Foden the star of the show after scoring a brace. Padraig Amond scored a late goal to give the home crowd something to cheer.
City were on the brink in the quarter-finals, falling two goals down to Swansea City in the first 30 minutes. However, a second-half comeback saw Bernardo Silva score to restore hope, an own goal to level the score and Aguero netting the 88-minute winner.
The semi-final against Brighton & Hove Albion was far less dramatic, with Jesus scoring the only goal of the game after just four minutes to book City’s place in the final for the first time since 2013.
After being tipped by many to go down, Watford finished in 11th – 16 points above the drop zone and their best finish since 1987.
At one point, the Hornets had looked set to challenge for seventh place and be crowned the “best of the rest”, but their league form tailed off after they booked their place in Saturday’s showpiece match. They only won four points from their final six games of the season.
However, the club had little to play for in league action. The players will have had an eye on the cup final, which is arguably the biggest match in their history.
Watford have never won a major trophy before. They were FA Cup runners-up in 1984, when they lost 2-0 to Everton. The Hertfordshire-based club will be desperate to go one better this time.
Who is Watford manager?
Ahead of the 2018-19 season, Javi Gracia was 6/1 favourite with Coral’s traders to be the first Premier League manager to leave their job.
The Spaniard replaced Marco Silva in January 2018 and kept Watford up, but there were doubts as to whether he would be a good fit in the long term. He’s answered those concerns emphatically this season.
Gracia has given Watford a clear way of playing and improved many of the players he inherited. He’ll be looking at ways to enhance the squad in the summer in order to push on further.
Watford Lineup: Key players to watch out for
One of those players who have benefited from working with Gracia is Gerard Delofeu. The former Barcelona winger’s talent is clear to see. But it’s rarely been harnessed consistently.
He scored 12 goals in all competitions this season, including two in Watford’s FA Cup semi-final comeback against Wolves. His previous best tally was just four.
Troy Deeney got the other goal at Wembley against Wolves and he’ll be fired up for the final. The club captain may not be the most technical player around, but he’s a real handful to play against. Watford will look to take advantage of Deeney’s power in the air to evade the City press.
Abdoulaye Doucoure will also be key if there is to be an upset. The impressive box-to-box midfielder directly contributed to 11 goals in the league this term. He’s formed a solid partnership with Etienne Capoue in midfield.
Route to the final
The first step on the road to Wembley saw Watford run out 2-0 winners away to Woking in the third round, thanks to goals from Will Hughes and Deeney.
Next up was an-all Premier League tie against Newcastle United. Despite fielding a heavily-rotated side, goals from Andre Gray and Isaac Success secured a 2-0 Hornets win.
A Capoue strike was enough to see off Queens Park Rangers in the fifth round, setting up a quarter-final tie against Crystal Palace.
Capoue got the opener at Vicarage Road, only for Michy Batshuayi to level the scores just after the hour mark. The game was finely poised, but Watford turned up the pressure and Gray came on to score the decisive goal.
Wolves were next up in the semi-final, with Nuno Espirito Santos’ side the favourites going into the game. It turned out to be a great cup game, as Wolves no doubt started to dream of glory after going 2-0 up with less than half an hour to play.
But shortly after coming on, Deulofeu gave Watford a lifeline with an inspired chip. And Deeney stepped up in injury time to blast home a penalty and take the tie to extra time.
Watford had the momentum now and Deulofeu raced through to score the winning goal, sealing the club’s place in their second FA Cup final.