FA Cup final preview: Manchester City v Stoke

Manchester City enter their first FA Cup final in 30 years as warm favourites, but Stoke are in great form ahead of Saturday’s showpiece at Wembley.City’s first appearance in the final since 1981 will come exactly 30 years to the day since they were beaten 3-2 in a replay by Spurs, after the sides played out a 1-1 draw five days earlier.

On that day, Argentine Ricky Villa scored two goals, including Spurs’ winner – and City boss Roberto Mancini will be hoping one of his compatriots can come to the fore on Saturday, this time wearing light blue.

Carlos Tevez returned from a hamstring injury to play the last seven minutes of City’s 1-0 win over Spurs on Tuesday, a result that secured the Eastlands club fourth place in the English Premier League and a maiden appearance in the Champions League.

While Mancini’s men will be looking to claim their first FA Cup since 1969, and their first piece of silverware since the 1976 league cup, for Tony Pulis’ Stoke outfit the drought has been even longer.

Stoke have never reached the FA Cup final before and they last tasted success in 1972 when they enjoyed a famous 2-1 win over Chelsea in the league cup final.

Pulis’ side are unbeaten in their last four Premier League games, sitting in eighth place, and destroyed Arsenal 3-1 at Britannia Stadium in their most recent outing, a result sure to fill the underdogs full of confidence.

The road to the final was a rocky one for City, needing replays to overcome Leicester City and Notts County before defeating Aston Villa, Reading and posting a memorable 1-0 win over bitter rivals Manchester United at Wembley in the semis.

Stoke needed a replay to beat Cardiff and then went on to eliminate Wolves, Brighton and West Ham.

In the semi-finals they put a highly regarded Bolton side to the sword, blasting five past them to show a trip to Wembley holds no fears for the Staffordshire outfit.

Stoke and Manchester City have played just once this season, with Matthew Etherington scoring a 90th-minute leveller to cancel out Micah Richards’ opener for City last November.

Bizarrely, the two teams are set to square off again three days after the final in a rescheduled Premier League game at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Stoke have the bulk of the fitness concerns ahead of the big day.

Etherington has been missing since injuring a hamstring against Wolves last month, and defender Robert Huth has been receiving treatment in Spain after limping off with a knee injury against Arsenal.

Pulis is already without defender Danny Higginbotham and Ricardo Fuller with respective knee and Achilles problems.

Tevez’s return mean Mancini has almost a full squad at his disposal, with only defender Jerome Boateng and goalkeeper Shay Given certain to miss out.

Article title: FA Cup final preview: Manchester City v Stoke

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