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FA Cup final: Man City look to make history, Watford aim for an upset

Watford have lost their last 10 matches against Manchester City in all competitions
FA Cup final on the BBC: Man City v Watford
Date: Saturday, 18 May Kick-off: 17:00 BST
Live coverage of Manchester City against Watford in the FA Cup final on BBC One, including highlights, across the BBC Sport website and app; live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and local radio; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website.

Manchester City can claim a historic domestic treble, while Watford will be looking to cause a major upset in Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley.

Pep Guardiola’s City have already won the Premier League and Carabao Cup.

They will be the first men’s team to win the English domestic treble if they beat Watford (17:00 BST).

If the Hornets, who finished 11th in the Premier League table, win a first ever FA Cup, they will earn a place in next season’s Europa League.

It would also be the biggest shock in a final since Wigan beat City 1-0 in 2013.

The final is live on BBC One and build-up starts with Football Focus at 13:00.

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First domestic treble looming?

Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United famously won a Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup Treble in 1999.

Meanwhile, Liverpool won an FA Cup, League Cup and Uefa Cup treble in 2001 under Gerard Houllier.

However, no men’s team has won all three major domestic competitions in one season in England before (Arsenal Women have won the domestic treble in the past).

City clinched the league last week, finishing one point ahead of runners-up Liverpool, having beaten Chelsea on penalties in the Carabao Cup final in February.

Their last FA Cup triumph was in 2011 when they beat Stoke City at Wembley. In the eight years since then, City have gone on to be crowned champions of England four times and won four League Cups.

“It is a cup final, anything can happen like a red card,” said Guardiola, who is seeking to win the FA Cup for the first time in his third season in charge at City.

“In one game, anything can happen. Normally the better team wins but a decision of the referee could make the difference.

“In the Premier League you have another chance and can be more relaxed, but this is completely different.”

The last team to win the Premier League and the FA Cup in the same season were Chelsea in 2010.

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Why Wigan give Watford hope

The last team to win the FA Cup outside the ‘big six’ were Wigan Athletic in 2013. Roberto Martinez’s side were relegated from the Premier League a few days after beating City 1-0 at Wembley.

Watford would have to pull off a feat nearly as large to upset City, whose record signing Riyad Mahrez cost £60m – the Hornets’ most expensive signing was Andre Gray for £18.5m.

The Hornets, whose only previous appearance in the final ended in a 2-0 defeat against Everton in 1984, started their FA Cup run with a 2-0 win at non-league Woking in the third round.

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Watford finished 48 points behind City in the table but boss Javi Gracia, who masterminded a famous win at Spanish giants Barcelona in 2015 when in charge at Malaga, said: “All the experiences you have help you.

“We’re going to create chances and if you score like we did when I was in Malaga playing against Barcelona, for example, we won 1-0.

“It was something nobody expected, but it happened and then always you have one chance to win and we have to work for it.”

Watford’s unlikely journey

Four years ago Watford were playing the likes of Blackpool and Rotherham in league games. Two years ago they were knocked out of the FA Cup at Championship Millwall.

Having achieved a club record Premier League points tally in their first season under Spaniard Gracia – the ninth managerial appointment in seven years under the Italian Pozzo family – these are good times for Hornets fans.

“The one thing I have been really keen to point out to everybody is that this season is not our day in the sun,” chief executive and chairman Scott Duxbury told BBC Sport, before Watford’s first FA Cup final appearance for 35 years.

“This is the start of what we want to do. This is where we should be and will be competing.

“We are not going to wait 35 years for another cup final.”

Watford’s managers under Pozzos
Gianfranco Zola – July 2012-December 2013 (75 games) Quique Sanchez Flores – June 2015-May 2016 (44 games)
Giuseppe Sannino – December 2013-August 2014 (36 games) Walter Mazzarri – July 2016-May 2017 (41 games)
Oscar Garcia – September 2014 (four games – left because of illness) Marco Silva – May 2017-January 2018 (26 games)
Billy McKinlay – September 2014-October 2014 (two games) Javier Gracia – January 2018- (60 games)
Slavisa Jokanovic – October 2014-June 2015 (36 games)

Why Wolves and Man Utd fans want a City win

Wolves fans will be cheering on Guardiola’s side, and not just because Watford beat them in the semi-finals.

If City win at Wembley, having already qualified for the Champions League, then Wolves – as the team who finished seventh in the Premier League – will qualify for Europe for the first time since 1980.

They would go into the second qualifying round of the Europa League, which will be played before the start of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

That would see Manchester United, who finished sixth in the Premier League, qualify for the Europa League group stage, the first game to be played on 19 September.

But if Watford win the first major trophy in their history, that changes everything.

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The Hornets, who played in Uefa Cup in 1983, would qualify for the Europa League group stages and Wolves would miss out.

In that scenario United would go into the second qualifying round, which starts on 25 July.

The problem with that?

They are due to face Tottenham at 12:30 BST in Shanghai that day in the International Champions Cup, a pre-season tournament.

VAR and a fourth sub

For the second successive season, the video assistant referee (VAR) system will be used during the final.

Kevin Friend will referee the match, with Andre Marriner taking the role of video assistant referee.

Should the game end in a draw after 90 minutes, 30 minutes of extra time will be played. If the teams still cannot be separated, a penalty shootout will decide the winners.

If the final goes to extra time, both teams will be allowed to use a fourth substitute.

Wembley holds 90,000 people, with both clubs allocated about 30,000 seats.

This season’s FA Cup started with 736 teams – 368 competed at the extra preliminary round stage back in August.

Barnet, the last surviving non-league club, received over £500,000 for reaching the fourth-round replay stage.

The BBC has broadcast FA Cup matches live on television from the first round, with Manchester United’s fourth-round win over Arsenal attracting a peak audience of 7.6 million on BBC One on 25 January.

EltasZone Sportswriters, Sports Analysts, Opinion columnists, editorials and op-eds. Analysis from The Zone Team
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