The Big Match Tactical View: Man City v Watford

Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero will start as favourite to open the scoring

Manchester City start as a big favourites for Saturday's FA Cup final. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the action.

"I think Watford might be able to frustrate City here - they're a well-organised, disciplined side and Gracia will have been working on his game plan for several weeks."

Man City v Watford
Saturday 17:00, BBC One.
Match Odds: Man City 1.251/4, Watford 15.014/1, The Draw 7.613/2.

No team in the history of English football has ever completed the domestic treble, so a Manchester City victory here would complete a remarkable campaign. Having clinched the League Cup on penalties and the Premier League by a single point, Pep Guardiola will hope his side's margin of victory here is more comfortable.

Watford won't be pushovers, however. A well-organised side with plenty of attacking quality, their final Premier League position of 11th doesn't do justice to their excellent campaign. Their previous six meetings with City, however, have all ended in defeat.

Midfield dilemma for Guardiola

Pep Guardiola seemingly has both Fernandinho and Kevin de Bruyne back from injury and ready for selection, although considering City's excellent form in recent weeks, there's no guarantee that either will start. Ilkay Gundogan has been performing well at the base of midfield, and would be disappointed to drop out here. There's a chance he'll be pushed forward, with Fernandinho coming into the side to guard against Watford's counter-attacking threat.

David Silva seems certain to start, while Bernardo Silva has generally played from the right flank recently, as Guardiola hasn't generally used Leroy Sane. Riyad Mahrez is another option, particularly considering his excellent performance on the final day, but he might need to be content with a role as a substitute here, unless Guardiola decides to attack Watford's stand-in left-back with a more direct winger.

Raheem Sterling will start, probably from the left, while Sergio Aguero would love to compensate for narrowly failing to retain his Golden Boot award by scoring at Wembley.

Left-back issues for both managers

Defensively, Guardiola seems likely to stick with Oleksandr Zinchenko rather than Benjamin Mendy, because he will probably deploy his full-backs narrow to help defend against Watford's wide players, who drift inside quickly. Vincent Kompany seems likely to continue and could be perfect for battling against Troy Deeney, while Kyle Walker will play right-back. Ederson has played throughout the FA Cup run, so there's no debate about whether Guardiola should, or will, deploy a designated cup goalkeeper.

Javi Gracia will be relieved that left-back Jose Holebas won his appeal against the red card he was given against West Ham and is available for selection. There will be competition on the other flank between Kiko Femenia and Daryl Janmaat. Femenia is the quicker player and therefore probably better for playing against the speed of Sterling or Sane.

The other major story is in goal, where Heurelho Gomes is Watford's cup goalkeeper and will start instead of Ben Foster, who enjoyed an outstanding league campaign. This is the Brazilian's final game before retirement, and you suspect he'll be in for an eventful afternoon.

Deulofeu the main threat

Otherwise, there shouldn't be many surprises here. Craig Cathcart and Christian Kabasele will play in the centre of defence, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue will protect them closely, with the former sometimes springing forward into attack, Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes will drift in from the flanks.

Up front, Deeney will lead the line and provide physicality against City's backline, while semi-final hero Gerard Deulofeu will offer the counter-attacking speed and running in behind. He seems Watford's best chance of doing damage in open play, particularly if he can use his speed in behind Kompany.

Watford's other area of strength might be set-pieces - Brighton showed last weekend that City can be exposed in that respect.

I think Watford might be able to frustrate City here - they're a well-organised, disciplined side and Gracia will have been working on his game plan for several weeks, with the Premier League run-in not of huge concern.

City have so many tactical options, however, and with the likes of De Bruyne and Sane potentially ready to come off the bench, Guardiola's side will surely have too much. I'll back Draw / Man City in The Half-Time / Full-Time market at 3.613/5.

The Trader's View - Alan Thompson

This looks like a formality, Manchester City just need to turn up and become the first team to capture the domestic treble in England. However, as we have seen recently, football doesn’t always comply with what should happen. It wasn’t that long ago (2013) that a relegated Wigan side beat Manchester City in the final.

Watford are the biggest priced FA Cup finalists (15) since Portsmouth played Chelsea in 2010. Pompey only lost by a single goal that day (1-0) and that has been very much the trend since the competition returned to the new Wembley Stadium. Since 2007, there has only been one cup final where the winning team won over 90 minutes by a margin greater than one goal - when Arsenal defeated Aston Villa 4-0 in 2015.

However, after trying as hard as I can to make a case for The Hornets to at least keep it close, I just can’t back them in any way. City are a much better side than when they last appeared here against Wigan, they have just completed a 14 game winning sequence to win the Premier League title in a epic race against Liverpool and they will desperately want this treble.

Watford may well have lost their last three meetings with City by no more than two goals (3-1, 2-1, 3-1), but they’ve also suffered five and six nil hammerings under Pep Guardiola’s reign as well. After beating Tottenham (2-1) early in the season, Watford then went on to lose all 11 of their games against the top six sides by a margin of 27 goals to five. I can’t see the Hornets keeping City to a single goal victory.

I will be backing Man City -1.5 & -2.0 on the Asian Handicap at anything around evens.

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