Less than a week after retaining their first ever Premier League, Manchester City travel to historic Wembley Stadium for what feels like the 10th time this season. It’s been an incredible season for the blues and they now face the opportunity to do the first ever domestic treble in England against a tricky Watford side.
Competition: FA Cup
Kickoff Time: Saturday, May 18th – 12:00 (EST), 17:00 (England), Wembley Stadium
Odds (via Bovada): Man City (-475), Watford (+1200), DRAW (+575)
The Last Time
City hosted Watford in the Premier League in March and came away with a 3-1 victory thanks to a hat trick from Raheem Sterling. While a flattering scoreline, City came off lucky with their first goal (widely regarded as being offsides) and didn’t look back after Raz bagged his first. However, Watford posed a real threat all game long and didn’t have their key man Deulofeu start as the Hornets setup in a very defensive lineup. Once he came on as a substitute, he was on the scoresheet within minutes. Will Watford setup in a defensive approach or look to entertain their fans and go for it?
Despite finishing 11th in the Premier League, Watford were a top table side for most of the season. Under manager Javi Gracia, they’ve made great strides as a club and have recruited some incredibly talented players. They’re a side who can setup to expose any defense on their day and City will have to be wary of their ability on the counter.
Watford are led by the likes of former Barca man Gerard Deulofeu as well as Troy Deeney in attack while they’re supported by the talented midfield of Roberto Pereyra and Abdoulaye Doucouré, two players who compliment each others very nicely in the center of the pitch. Not to mention, forward Isaac Success has a long history of giving City plenty to think about. A pacy forward with lots of tricks in his locker, he always seems to put in his best performances against City.
The aforementioned Deulofeu has had a strong finish to this season since occupying more of a central strikers role, including scoring against City in March. He scored two goals in their semi-final victory over Wolves as he got the winner in the 104′. A menace every time he’s on the ball, City’s central defenders will have to stay in constant communication with the backline to ensure he doesn’t get in in front of Ederson.
Another storyline for Watford is that of 38 year old goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes. The Brazilian has spoken about retiring after this season after 6 years with the club and has been the cup keeper in their FA Cup run to the finals. Will he put in one last dominant display against a potent City attack? We’ll have to wait and see, but it’ll surely be an emotional game for him and his teammates.
Pep has rotated a handful of players throughout the FA Cup run, however he hasn’t shied away from playing a strong side as he’s shown his desire to win the competition for the first time. I expect more of the same approach as City fight for the opportunity to win the first ever domestic treble in England.
In net, it’s got to be Ederson. The PFA team of the year member has been chosen by Pep for the entirety of the FA Cup and has been a rock as always. He’ll be called upon to provide stability at the back and hopefully get another clean sheet.
In defense, I don’t expect to see any changes from the run-in to the end of the Premier League season. At right-back, Kyle Walker will retain the spot his occupied for nearly every game this season. In central defense, I expect Pep to go with the seasoned experience of Vincent Kompany and the consistency that Aymeric Laporte brings. At left-back, with Mendy confirmed out for the season, it’s everyone’s favorite, Oleksandr Zinchenko.
In midfield, with Fernandinho and De Bruyne back in contention, Pep has some tough decisions to make. Does he go with the in-form and fit players? Or rely on two of his rocks in the dominant season last year? For me, he should be playing those who have had a good run of form and will also be able to contribute right away. I believe that will entail Gundogan retaining his role at the #6 with David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne in front of him. Gundogan has been dominant in front of the back four and with David Silva’s experience I think KDB will be the perfect compliant to it all as he looks to get back into shape.
In attack, while many will continue to call out for Sané, Pep will go with his tried and true front three that’s been the reason for a lot of his successes these past two years. Bernardo Silva has looked like maybe winger is his best position, while Aguero and Raheem Sterling will continue to give opposition defenses headaches and look to wreak havoc on Watford.
It’s been hard to pick against this City side all season long. Even in difficult matchups, they’ve seemed to always find a way, and I don’t see that changing with a chance at history on the line. Watford will be a scary team on the counter, but I think Pep will setup his side for success and the blues will complete their domestic treble with a 3-1 victory with goals from Aguero, Silva and Sterling.