Fri, May 10, 3:10am by Kevin Pitstock
As is tradition, the English Premier League gives way to the FA Cup Final to crown the Domestic Cup Champions of English Football. The FA Cup is a football competition that is rich in history. The first FA Cup competition took place in 1871-1872 with the Wanderers defeating the Royal Engineers by a 1-nil scoreline at the Kennington Oval.
Since the first ever cup final in the FA, the finals have played in venues ranging from the Oval to Lillie Bridge in London to Fallowfield in Manchester, and Goodison Park, Liverpool. The FA Cup Finals have also played out in Crystal Palace, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, the Millennium Stadium, and at Wembley Stadium. The New Wembley Stadium has been the home of the FA Cup Finals since 2007 and is the host venue for this year’s FA Cup between five time winners Manchester City and Wigan Athletic, who are making their first ever FA Cup Final appearance.
Manchester City have appeared in nine previous FA Cup Finals and they have won the competition five times. Their last win in the finals came just two years ago under Roberto Mancini. A Yaya Toure strike gave City the 1-nil win over runner up Stoke City. City have conceded one goal in this year’s competition en route to the finals. They handily defeated Watford 3-nil, whilst bouncing Stoke City 1-nil in the fourth round. Their fifth and sixth round matches were both high scoring affairs, as they beat Leeds United 4-nil, whilst blanking Barnsley 5-nil in the sixth round. To get to the finals, they had to make it past Chelsea. Samir Nasri and Sergio Kun Aguero scored for City, whilst Demba Ba played a volley past City netminder Costel Pantilimon. Pantilimon is Mancini’s second goalkeeper (behind England #1 Joe Hart). However, he has played every minute in the net for City during this year’s FA Cup. Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has tipped that he will remain with Pantilimon in the Finals, as he feels the Romanian keeper deserves the pick.
Wigan’s road to the FA Cup Final has not been nearly as easy looking as City’s has. Wigan’s path included replays against Bournemouth in the third round before defeating Macclesfield Town, Huddersfield Town, and Everton in successive away matches. They drew Millwall in the semi-finals and beat them 2-nil courtesy of Shaun Maloney and Callum McManaman goals on either side of the half.
Wigan boss Roberto Martinez hopes that the FA Cup final (win or lose) will provide a boost in morale to provide strength in Wigan’s battle against relegation in the English Premier League. Wigan currently reside in the final relegation spot of the top flight and have matches away against Arsenal and a final match at home against Aston Villa. In the EPL, Wigan are three points behind Norwich, Sunderland, and Newcastle and must gain ground on one of the three if they are to continue on next season in the Barclays Premier League. If they fail to catch any of the trio, they will be relegated to the Championship Division.
Before focusing on a strong EPL finish, Wigan’s attention will be turned to the finals at Wembley. Wigan will field a team without Maynor Figueroa, as the defender strained his groin in a match against Tottenham. His injury has him unavailable for the balance of this year’s campaign.
On the other side of the pitch, Yaya Toure has been declared “fully fit” for Manchester City. Toure sat out mid-week against West Brom after being subbed out at halftime over the weekend against Swansea due to taking a knock. Scott Sinclair has struggled with fitness all season long and he is the only major injury concern for the Citizens.
For Wigan, Shaun Maloney, Arouna Kone, and Callum McManaman have eighteen goals between them. They will be called upon to play smartly in the rare instances they are in possession during this match. City will surely dominate possession with a wide and talented midfield. James Milner, David Silva, and Yaya Toure will likely anchor the midfield in support of the Argentinian strike duo Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez. Fellow Argintian right back Pablo Zabaleta and left back Gael Clichy are also threats on Wigan’s goal, as the wingers make speedy and dangerous runs quite often for City in support of their often-relentless attacks.
Manchester City are heavily favoured to win the FA Cup Finals at 1.36, according to IASBet.com. Wigan have 8.50 odds to win, whilst a draw after 90 minutes pays 5.00. If betting Wigan, CentreBet provides the best odds on a Wigan win in regulation at 9.50.
In the first goal scorer’s markets, the “usual suspects” are all overpriced, as Aguero, Tevez, and Dzeko all have short odds for scoring the first goal of the match. Yaya Toure, who scored the match winner for City two years ago in the FA Cup Finals, is reasonably priced at 8.00, whilst David Silva and James Milner are always threats and they list at 9.00 and 10.00 respectively to score first. On the Wigan side of the team sheet, Kone leads Wigan in scoring this season with eleven top-flight goals. Coincidentally, he pays 11.00 to score first and may well be the best bet in the first goalscorer market for the FA Cup final if you bet him each-way to score first at IASBet.
I like the favourites in this match but I feel like Wigan will give City a bit of trouble in their quest for a sixth FA Cup. Wigan are an exciting and young side who refuse to quit or give up, whilst City are accustomed to winning with this squad. I think City’s experience and depth brings them to lift the FA Cup in regulation.
Prediction: Manchester City 3 – Wigan Athletic 2
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