City v City: The FA Cup final face-off!
The 2011 FA Cup Final | Manchester City v Stoke City
Manchester City take to the Wembley turf on Saturday for their first FA Cup final appearance in thirty years and will be looking to win the trophy for the first time since 1969.
Roberto Mancini's team (10/11) confirmed their participation in next season's Champions League with victory over Spurs on Tuesday and taking the cup back to Manchester with them will seal the perfect week. The acquisition of any form of silverware will surely delight owner Sheikh Mansour and the FA Cup will act as a starting point for City's quest for Premier League and Champions League glory next season.
The Citizens famously beat their bitter rivals Man Utd in the semi-finals, to deny them the chance of a second treble, courtesy of a second half Yaya Toure strike. Missing that day, and for the last month, has been City's talisman and influential skipper Carlos Tevez. The Argentine star made his comeback from a hamstring injury when coming on as an 83rd minute substitute at Eastlands against Spurs. Mancini has gone on record to say that he will give his captain until the very last minute to prove his fitness and lead his team out.
Tevez can be backed at 5/1 to open the scoring in the final while the aforementioned Toure is priced at 10s to break the deadlock.
Gareth Barry (hamstring) has recovered and may be assigned a role in the middle of the park to try and win the physical battle, allowing the likes of David Silva (9/1 first scorer) and James Milner (14s first scorer) to attack more freely. This means the only absentees will be Kolo Toure, who remains suspended, and Jerome Boateng (knee).
The William Hill Match Winner offer for this FA Cup showpiece centres around the magnificent backline of Manchester City. The Mancunians haven't conceded a goal in the competition in the last three rounds and are priced at 5/2 to continue that trend at Wembley and win to nil.
Stoke City's (7/2 match betting) wait for silverware is even longer and more frustrating than that of their more illustrious opponents. Apart from the Autoglass Trophy, now the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, that they won in 2000, the Potters have yet to register success in a domestic final or take a trophy back to their fans in Staffordshire. For the second oldest professional club in English football, this will be their first appearance in the FA Cup final.
Injured pair Robert Huth (knee) and Matthew Etherington (hamstring) are due to have fitness tests on the morning of the game. Etherington opened the scoring in the semi-final against Bolton and his wing play will be sorely missed if he is unable to take part. The outlook is a bit brighter for Huth who should be able to shake off the injury he suffered in the terrific win against Arsenal last weekend. Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, a regular in cup games, is expected to retain his place but Ricardo Fuller, Danny Higginbotham and Mamady Sidibe are ruled out through injury.
Stoke are in a great run of form going into the final. Unbeaten in five games and already assured of European football for the first time in 37 years, these are certainly halcyon times for Tony Pulis' team.
It is no mystery that Stoke's sequence of good form has coincided with the excellent performances of Kenwyne Jones (9/1 first scorer) and Jon Walters (10/1). The Potters' striking duo both found the back of the net when Arsenal were put to the sword last time out and were both on target in the club's 5-0 thrashing of Bolton in the FA Cup semi-final. Walters has scored five goals so far in this season's cup campaign but all will pale into insignificance if he can find a winner in his Wembley locker.
In recent times FA Cup finals have been quite predictable with few underdog stories to mention. Although Stoke are only four places below Man City in the Premier League it would still be a shock if they were to beat the Blues. My recommendation is for a narrow victory to the Citizens. 1-0 in the correct score market is priced at 11/2 while Draw/Man City in the double result market is available at 15/4.