How Watford can deny City treble glory
Manchester City face Watford in the FA Cup final aiming to complete a historic treble – but the Hornets could provide a sting in the tail for Pep Guardiola.
FA CUP PEDIGREE
City have appeared in the final on 11 occasions, winning it five times, most recently in 2011. Watford's solitary final appearance, some 35 years ago in 1984, ended in defeat against Everton.
Manchester City are without reserve team keeper Claudio Bravo but Benjamin Mendy and Fernandinho are expected to be fit enough for the match-day squad. However, neither player is likely to start.
Jose Holebas is available after his suspension for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity against West Ham in Watford's Premier League game on Sunday was overturned. Etienne Capoue looks set to partner Abdoulaye Doucoure in midfield after returning to action during the West Ham match.
|Manchester City wins||17|
MAN CITY: WWWWW
TACTICAL LOWDOWN - how Watford can beat Man City
The only way to beat City is to risk a heavy beating. A consistent pillar of Guardiola’s football has been an obsession to adhere to the five-second rule – that is to win the ball back within five seconds of losing it. The reason? Evade that five-second window and Guardiola’s teams can be got at. It is why it has remained a central tenant to everything that a Guardiola team does.
Therefore, to have any chance of making inroads against City, Javi Gracia should follow the example set by Championship side Swansea.
Yes, the Swans, who play an expansive brand of football under Graham Potter, pushed City close to elimination in the quarter-final of this season's competition, taking a two-goal lead before City fought back to win 3-2 courtesy of a 88th-minute strike through Sergio Aguero, see the highlights below.
So, Watford will need to keep their wide players high and wide – meaning Roberto Pereyra and perhaps Gerard Deulofeu will become crucial to that cause, and their forwards, Troy Deeney and Andre Gray will need to occupy/impose themselves upon City's holding midfielder. Guardiola’s first choice is Fernandinho but after that City are threadbare.
It is no coincidence that City's struggles against Swansea and two of their four Premier League losses came with the Brazilian absent. The 34-year-old sets many of their attacks in motion from deep and is crucial to their defensive shape. Without him, City are a very different, perhaps, inferior proposition. Whether the former Shakhtar Donetsk man recovers in time to start, the holding position will be an area that the Hornets should target.
Should the Brazilian not play, Ilkay Gundogan will likely start in his stead. Should that be the case, Capoue and Doucoure must swamp the German, and treat him as the weak link in this City side.
|PEP GUARDIOLA||JAVI GRACIA|
Barcelona B (2007-2008)
Bayern Munich (2013-2016)
Manchester City (2016-)
Villarreal B (2010–2011)
Olympiacos Volou (2011)
Rubin Kazan (2016–2017)
Tercera División: 2007–08
La Liga: 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11
Copa del Rey: 2008–09, 2011–12
Supercopa de España: 2009, 2010, 2011
UEFA Champions League: 2008–09, 2010–11
UEFA Super Cup: 2009, 2011
FIFA Club World Cup: 2009, 2011
Bundesliga: 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16
DFB-Pokal: 2013–14, 2015–16
UEFA Super Cup: 2013
FIFA Club World Cup: 2013
Premier League: 2017–18, 2018–19
EFL Cup: 2017–18, 2018–19
FA Community Shield: 2018
Segunda División B: 2006–07
Segunda División B: 2008–09
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY
"Pep is the best in the Premier League, yes. He is a very good manager and we have a good relationship. I don't speak with him many times but we have a good relationship.
" We lost both games but I think we showed that we can beat them. We competed really well in both games in different moments."
"In the first game we lost 2-1 but we competed until the end and had chances at the end. In the second one we kept the result until the second half and then they scored from an offside position and the game changed. I think it showed us it's possible."
"No teams in England have done that before, so we have to challenge, compete and be focused on this game."
Manchester City are understandably the odds on favourites to lift the FA Cup for a sixth time.
Manchester City 1/4, Draw 6/1, Watford 14/1