As City look to clinch yet more silverware, Watford have the chance to cause a Cup upset for the ages – so long as they follow our advice…
Emirates FA Cup Final: Manchester City v Watford, Saturday 18 May, 3.55pm, BBC One/HD (CH 101/108) + 4pm, BT Sport 2 HD (CH 528)
It’s the big one. A total of 734 teams have fallen by the wayside in this season’s Emirates FA Cup, leaving just Manchester City and Watford to scrap it out for glory at Wembley Stadium this Saturday.
You don’t need the mental sharpness of a master tactician to know that five-time winners City are the overwhelming favourites to lift the famous trophy this weekend. Pep Guardiola’s team have been mostly unstoppable domestically and, having already beaten Watford twice in the Premier League this term, will be expected to go all the way when the sides square off in the final.
But there is hope for the Hornets. This season Watford have enjoyed their highest ever finish in the Premier League (eleventh) and boast a squad packed with serious talent. On their day they’re a match for anyone. But toppling City is not going to be easy. For Javi Gracia’s men to spring a shock on the big stage – and win the competition for the first time in their history – we suggest they do the following…
1. Hassle the goalkeeper
If the modern tactic of teams playing out from the back has given us one thing, it’s the always hilarious sight of goalkeepers getting flustered when put under pressure. Manchester City’s Ederson is one of the most technically gifted keepers around, but he’s got mistakes in him. City are expected to monopolise possession at Wembley, which means plenty of touches for the Brazilian. Watford can create their own luck by chasing Ederson down and forcing him into errors.
2. Give the ball to Deulofeu
On his day, Watford’s enigmatic forward is a game-changer. Take his side’s semi-final against Wolves. The Spaniard came off the bench to score twice (his first goal a physics-defying scoop into the top corner) to help the Hornets come from 0-2 down to win 3-2 after extra time. This final has the potential to be fast-paced – so long as Watford get stuck into City – and Deulofeu could be a major thorn in the opposition’s side with his mazy dribbling, eye for a killer pass, and first-rate finishing.
3. Fire up Deeney
But not too much. While Watford’s skipper loves mixing it up with defenders, he has an unhappy knack of crossing the line and getting into trouble. Deeney will be expected to lead from the front at Wembley, setting the tone for his team with a typically rambunctious performance up top – and assuming the striker can get pumped up while staying on the right side of the referee’s whistle, the likes of Vincent Kompany and Aymeric Laporte have got problems heading their way. Big problems.
4. Put three men on Sterling
There’s no two ways about it: the Football Writers’ and PFA Young Player of the Year is so hot right now. We’ve had the Matthews Final (1953) and the Gerrard Final (2006), and in the same way Saturday’s big clash could be the Sterling Final, such is his world-beating dominance this season. The best thing Watford can do is mark the England international out of the game – and hope Sergio Agüero, David Silva and Bernardo Silva don’t feel up to it…
5. Hope City are sozzled
With the Premier League in the bag, there’s a chance City’s players will have spent the week enjoying one or two refreshments to celebrate retaining the title. Watford can but hope that their opponents rock up to Wembley with bleary eyes, loosened ties and a pre-match playlist consisting of nothing but soothing, mellow tunes. Maybe some Enya. Of course, there’s absolutely no chance of this happening – Guardiola’s players will be equipped with a laser-like focus as they look to clinch a domestic treble. Good luck, Watford!
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