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FA Cup

  • 14 May 2011
  • • 15:00
  • • Wembley Stadium, London
  • Referee: M. Atkinson
  • • Attendance: 88643
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Manchester City - Stoke City Preview: Both FA Cup finalists seeking to end decades-long trophy droughts

Manchester City - Stoke City Preview: Both FA Cup finalists seeking to end decades-long trophy droughts

With European participation next season already achieved by both protagonists, their aim will be to give their respective fans major silverware for the first time since the 1970s



PROBABLE LINE-UPS
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Zabaleta; De Jong, Barry; A Johnson, Y Toure, Silva; Tevez.

Manager Roberto Mancini will give City's talismanic striker Carlos Tevez as long as possible to prove his fitness for the FA Cup final. The Argentine came on in the 83rd minute against Tottenham on Tuesday after having been sidelined for a month with a hamstring injury. If he is passed fit it could mean Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli will start on the bench.

Midfielder Gareth Barry missed the last two City matches but trained with the rest of the squad on Wednesday and has been declared fit to play by Mancini, who has no other injury problems.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Begovic; Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson; Pennant, Whelan, Delap, Etherington; Walters, Jones.

Central defender Robert Huth, who has contributed nine goals from centre-back this season, will also be given as long as possible to overcome the knee injury he sustained during Stoke's 3-1 victory over Arsenal last Sunday. The German flew to Spain in midweek to see a specialist.

Boss Tony Pulis also has a major doubt over winger Matthew Etherington, who tore his hamstring in the win over Wolves on April 26 and was expected to be out for four to six weeks but has made rapid progress, responding well to treatment, and could make the final squad. Like Huth, he will undergo a fitness test on the day of the match.

But Pulis will definitely be without defender Danny Higginbotham (knee) and striker Ricardo Fuller (Achilles), who have both been ruled out for the rest of the season.


DID YOU KNOW?

  • Manchester City will be appearing in their ninth final, and first for 30 years since losing 3-2 in a replay to Tottenham in 1981.
  • They lifted their last major trophy in 1976, beating Newcastle 2-1 in the League Cup final.
  • Manchester City are said to be the world's richest club and have reportedly spent £300m on transfer fees since the takeover by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in 2008. In contrast, Stoke's probable starting XI on Saturday cost £26m in total - about the same as Carlos Tevez (pictured right).
  • Stoke City have endured a 148-year wait to take part in an FA Cup final. They have been beaten semi-finalists on three occasions - in 1899 by Derby County, and in 1971 and 1972 by Arsenal. 
  • They go into the final unbeaten in their last five games (won three; drawn two), and already assured of a fourth consecutive season in the Premier League.

Players to watch

V. Kompany

Position: Defender

Games: 0

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The defender has enjoyed an outstanding season and captained the side to victory over rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. His tackling and assured reading of the game - reflecting his versatility as a defensive midfielder or centre-back - was recognised when he was named in the PFA Team of the Year for 2010-11, along with club-mate Carlos Tevez.

That followed his being named Belgian Player of the Year (Playing Abroad) in 2010. He currently heads the Premier League's top tacklers table with a ratio of tackles won to tackles attempted of 81.7%. How effectively he marshals the City defence against Stoke's notoriously productive set-plays could have a key bearing on the final.

J. Pennant

Position: Midfielder

Games: 0

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The Nottingham-born winger has been a revelation in recent months, and appears to have found a team and an environment at Stoke in which his talent can prosper, following a hitherto largely unfulfilled career at Arsenal, Watford, Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool and Real Zaragoza punctuated by frequent disciplinary problems.

Currently enjoying a rich vein of form, Pennant scored his first goal for Stoke in a 4–0 win over Newcastle in March, provided an assist at Wembley in the 5–0 semi-final victory over Bolton, netted against Wolves a week later as the Potters won 3–0 and was on target again against Arsenal last Sunday. But his main contribution to the team is his ability to flight crosses into the centre from the right wing, something Manchester City will need to counter effectively.

Editor's Prediction

Destiny is beckoning for both sets of players to bring the FA Cup to their respective success-starved fans. Stoke are the underdogs; big-spending City carry the heavier burden of expectation. And while Tony Pulis will probably emerge with his reputation enhanced whatever the outcome, Roberto Mancini is under pressure to deliver the silver.

The Potters arguably go into the final with greater confidence and momentum: their recent victory over Arsenal combined defensive resilience with attacking panache and underlined that there is more to their game than long throws. In contrast, City looked tentative and unconvincing at times during their pivotal 1-0 win over Spurs to secure a top-four finish. But in City, Stoke will encounter a more miserly defence than Arsenal's, and further forward some world class stars with match-winning potential.

Stoke will no doubt press City relentlessly while looking to get the best out of their wingers and maximising their threat from set-pieces - which have yielded 22 of their goals this season (44.2 per cent excluding penalties). How City cope with that could determine the result - but so could the fitness (or lack of it) of players like Huth, Tevez and Etherington. It should be a fascinating contest, but while City appear to have the pedigree, Stoke have the work ethic and mental toughness to make Saturday their finest hour.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

Manchester City

Stoke City

Wins
3
1
1
Wins

Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Manchester City FC MNC
Manchester City FC Manchester City
Draw
Stoke City FC STO
Stoke City FC Stoke City
67%
25%

Top 3 Predictions

Manchester City FC MNC
2 - 0
Stoke City FC STO
Manchester City FC MNC
2 - 1
Stoke City FC STO
Manchester City FC MNC
1 - 2
Stoke City FC STO

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