Manchester City are just one win away from an unprecedented domestic treble, but must first defeat a Watford side seeking their first major silverware when the two sides meet in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday (5pm live on BBC1).
The FA Cup final isn’t, perhaps, the occasion that it once was, but there can be no denying that it remains one of the most prestigious domestic cup competitions in the world. It is treated with respect by most of the teams at the top of the Premier League table.
It is only necessary to look at the names of the recent winners to verify that. Wigan’s triumph over Man City in the 2013 final is the only time over the course of the last decade when the trophy has been won by a team outside of the current top six. The last two finals have been solely contested by members of that elite group of teams.
City will, of course, be confident of extending that top-six dominance of the competition. Liverpool pushed them extremely close in the Premier League title race. When that triumph is added to their earlier success in the Carabao Cup and their place in Saturday’s final (albeit achieved whilst facing just one other top-flight side) there can be little argument that City have been English football’s best team this year.
Across all domestic competitions, Man City have scored 131 goals, at a rate of 2.67 per match, while conceding just 27, at a rate of just 0.55 per match. On average, they have been just over two goals better than their opponents, and their underlying statistics have also been very strong. Potent in attack and tight in defence, it is hard to find too many flaws in their game.
That isn’t to say that some opponents haven’t. Tottenham Hotspur were able to eliminate them at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League on away goals following a 1-0 win at home and a 3-4 defeat away in Manchester. Man City did lose four times over the course of the Premier League season, including three times in four matches during December.
The way Pep Guardiola’s side stepped up the pace after Christmas and powered themselves to the title on the back of 17 wins in 18 matches, with 41 goals scored and just seven conceded, gives some indication as to the task facing Watford this weekend.
The Hornets will make just their second FA Cup final appearance on Saturday and their first since their 1980s heyday. They were the losing side on that occasion, going down 0-2 to Everton in the 1984 final. On the back of their best league campaign since 1987, they have reason to believe that they can at least make a game of it against City.
Javi Gracia’s side were very much in the race to finish seventh in the Premier League before three consecutive defeats at the end of the campaign, including a 1-4 loss to West Ham on the final day, saw them drop down to 11th. They have also already had to overcome three fellow top-flight sides en route to the FA Cup final: Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Watford booked their place in the final with a thrilling comeback win over Wolves at Wembley last month. They seemed to be heading for defeat when their opponents established a two-goal lead just past the hour. Then Gerard Deulofeu curled home a lovely effort to reduce the deficit to one, before Troy Deeney struck an injury time penalty to take the match to extra time. There, Deulofeu produced a neat finish to win it.
City are, though, likely to prove a bridge too far. Unlike Wolves, who consistently made life difficult for the top six this season, Watford lost 11 of their 12 matches against those teams, including losses home and away to City. While Gracia is certainly capable of coming up with a viable game plan, City’s overall quality is eventually likely to tell.
Gabriel Jesus scored the decisive goal against Brighton in City’s semi-final triumph. While he has generally played second fiddle to Sergio Aguero in the league, he has started all five of City’s FA Cup matches to date. Presuming Guardiola sticks with him on Saturday, he can be fancied to find the back of the net as City complete their domestic treble with victory at Wembley.
Our Preview’s Man City vs Watford FA Cup Final Betting Tips Verdict
Unsurprisingly, Man City are odds-on to win this match, so this is where we see the value:
- Bet on Manchester City to win in a match in which Gabriel Jesus scores (on the ‘score/win’ double market) @ 21/20 with Boylesports.