The oldest cup competition in football comes to a head at teatime on Saturday as Premier League strugglers Wigan, who've never won a major trophy before, take on the might of Roberto Mancini's Manchester City, one of the richest clubs in world football and a side looking for their second FA Cup triumph in just three years.
It's obviously going to be very difficult for Wigan to overcome their more illustrious opponents this weekend. A damaging defeat to Swansea on Monday night has only put them under further pressure to maintain their Premier League status, and they know they're going to have to visit the Emirates on Tuesday more than likely needing some sort of result to have a chance.
The key to them beating Mancini's team on Saturday will be how successfully they can put that league pressure to one side and take this game in isolation. It's patronising to say 'oh, it's a day out for them', but that's the mentality they need to adopt. This is a day off from the everyday grind of league football and if they can harness that attitude, they've shown they have what it takes to beat top teams on their day. Look at how they dispatched Everton in the quarter final; it was a strong start of flowing, passing and most importantly attacking football which blew Moyes and his team away on their own patch. Wigan went 0-3 up within about 35 minutes that day and there was simply no way back for the home side after that.
Of course, Man City are a better side than Everton and have a full complement of strong, world class players that, if they're at the races, will be far too much for Wigan. I still maintain though that the Latics' best chance of winning this game is to attack early, try to catch Man City on their heels. Use the movement of their three front players, attempt to get down the sides, and put the opposing full backs under pressure, which will make it difficult for them to launch attacks of their own.
I think Martinez will tell his team to take a chance. Get out there, use their passing football on that big pitch with the sun on their backs and have a good go. Losing 1-3 is miles better than losing 0-2 in a cup final anyway, if it comes to that.
The funny thing about Wigan is that they really are capable of turning in this type of performance. Sometimes I watch them and wonder how they're even down the bottom; they work hard, have good dynamism up front and seem tactically sound. They're obviously just guilty of maybe being a bit too open at times and get picked off too easily by the better sides. Defending like the stuff they showed against Swansea at this time of the year won't help their cause either and that's possibly down to fatigue in the final act of a long season.
I've been fortunate enough to play in several cup finals, and whatever happens it's never easy. Wembley is a big pitch, the atmosphere and pressure is intense and your concentration needs to be at its most focused. Let's not forget Manchester City are in really good form at the moment and will be desperate to not end this season without a trophy after disappointment in both the Premier League and the Champions League, and that could be key to the result. There is no sense of 'after the Lord Mayor's show' about them because they've had such disappointment so far. It's for this reason more than anything else that I think City will emerge victorious, but that doesn't mean Wigan can't make a game of it.
Presuming Wigan do indeed adopt the approach of flying out of the blocks and trying to dictate the tempo early, I quite like the look of Draw/City in the Half Time/Full Time market at 4.3100/30. If we fancy Wigan to make a game of it but City's quality to overcome in the latter stages it looks like a decent bet and a nice price to boot. I also like Both Teams To Score at around 1.910/11. As I've said, Wigan's front three have impressed me with their movement at times this season and I think they'll revel in the occasion. They're more than capable of getting a goal, despite City's good defensive record in the competition so far.
As it's the FA Cup Final, I'll throw a correct score bet in there as well. Manchester City are probably two goals better than Wigan, but as I've mentioned, I think Wigan will get a goal. Manchester City to win 3-1 looks a nice price at 12.011/1, so I'll back that as well.
Back Draw/Man City in the Half Time/Full Time market at 4.3100/30
Back Both Teams To Score at around 1.910/11
Back Manchester City to win 3-1 at 12.011/1