Match Preview: Watford vs Manchester City

So, it’s the big one this weekend. The domestic season-ender. The FA Cup final, no less.

Manchester City (unsurprisingly) are involved and will be looking to record a treble of trophies having already secured the Carabao Cup and the Premier League title.

In Watford’s case, Javi Gracia’s men will be looking to round off an encouraging campaign by lifting the FA Cup for the first time. If they do manage to pull off the unthinkable, then a place in the Europa League awaits them.

You may think this tie is a foregone conclusion given the Citizens’ immeasurable might compared to the Hornets’ inconsistencies – they ended their league season with a 4-1 defeat at home to West Ham.

Wolves Fan TV place the blame for Wolves’ FA Cup semi-final collapse on John Ruddy in the video below…

However, Gracia’s men have shown what they’re capable of this term, and they most certainly shouldn’t be written off, especially not in a cup final.

Ahead of the game we’ve taken a look at the factors which could shape the result, including the head-to-head record, a key midfield battle and predicted starting line-ups…

What History Tells Us

The head-to-head record between the two teams doesn’t make great reading for Watford supporters.

City can boast an impressive 17 wins to the Hornets’ six, whilst they have also scored considerably more goals with 54 in comparison to Watford’s 25.

Perhaps the most worrying statistics of them all for fans of Gracia’s side are the ones showing City’s vastly superior record in the FA Cup; the Citizens have been involved in 10 finals, winning five of them, in comparison to Watford’s single final, which they lost.

Key Battle

Raheem Sterling and Gerard Deulofeu are both players who can make the difference for their sides at Wembley this weekend, and the stats prove that.

The England international hit 17 goals and recorded 10 assists in the league this season, form that saw him named as the Football Writers’ Player of the Year, and he has finally started to step up for the national team. His comfort levels playing at Wembley could be a key factor.

In Deulofeu’s case, however, the Spaniard is finally starting to step up his end product and has been in blistering form in the second half of the campaign. The former Barcelona forward has 10 goals and 5 assists in the league, whilst it was his excellent double against Wolves in the semi-final that got his team into the final.

Both teams should try their hardest to get the ball to their respective danger-men if they want to have the best chance of winning this tie.

Ref in Focus

Kevin Friend will be the man making the decisions at Wembley this weekend, and he won’t take too much nonsense.

The 47-year-old has taken charge of the joint 5th most Premier League games this season with 27, handing out three red cards and 92 yellows in the process.

He ranks sixth out of all 18 Premier League refs in the yellow and red card rankings, whilst he is at the same position on the list for fouls per tackle.

In the grand scheme of things, Friend seems to be a measured official judging by the stats and one who should let the game flow, although he won’t be scared to dish out the cards if emotions spill overboard and tackles turn nasty.

Team News

Watford will be going into the FA Cup final with a lot of luck on their side regarding injuries.

No key first-team players will miss the tie, with only Sebastian Prodl and Domingos Quina absent for Gracia.

Fortunately for the Hornets, Jose Holebas saw the red card he picked up against West Ham rescinded, meaning he is free to play against City.

Gracia’s 4-2-2-2 system, which has proven to be very effective this season, will be at full strength and raring to go against Pep Guardiola’s back-to-back champions.

For City, they will be without the crocked Benjamin Mendy, meaning the ever dependable Oleksandr Zinchenko should keep his place at Wembley.

Crucially for Guardiola, Fernandinho is a doubt for the fixture. The Brazilian has been struggling with a knee injury but was able to train this week, so it remains to be seen whether he will start the game from the first whistle.

Aymeric Laporte and Kyle Walker will especially enjoy the wide Wembley turf on Saturday, where the latter will be tearing up and down the pitch all evening, whilst the Frenchman’s excellent long-range passing could prove pivotal.

If City win, they will become the first team to ever win the domestic treble in England.

Are Watford the most likely club to break the top 6 next season? The fans in the video below certainly agree the ‘W’ part of that statement is correct…