FA Cup final: Manchester City face Watford with historic domestic treble in sight
Follow Man City vs Watford in our dedicated live blog on the Sky Sports app and SkySports.com on Saturday; kick-off is 5pm
By Ben Grounds
Last Updated: 18/05/19 3:54pm
Manchester City go in search of a sixth FA Cup title when they face Watford at Wembley, but they stand on the cusp of history.
Pep Guardiola's side could become the first team to win the domestic treble in England, having already won the Premier League title and League Cup this season.
Watford stand in the way of preventing City becoming just the fourth team to win both major domestic cup competitions in the same season, after Arsenal in 1992-93, Liverpool in 2000-01 and Chelsea in 2006-07.
Will City get the love they deserve?
"If we win tomorrow the season is extraordinary," Guardiola said. "If we don't I think it's extraordinary. We could have lost the Premier League by a point and the effort would have been the same.
"My players get plenty of love from our fans. To win four titles in one season will be incredible."
Kompany: City have the hunger of lions
Vincent Kompany claims Manchester City have the 'hunger of lions' as they try to secure a domestic treble with victory over Watford .
"It's a final, and hopefully we can celebrate it. Not just the FA Cup, but the Carabao Cup, the Premier League and the Community Shield.
"We will celebrate those achievements anyway on Saturday, Sunday and Monday here in Manchester."
On being tipped as overwhelming favourites to lift the trophy on Saturday, Guardiola added: "It is what it is, and this started last season when nobody could beat us.
"If Liverpool had won the Premier League, it would have been seen as an incredible achievement. But when Manchester City win the league, it's OK, it's an achievement. It is what it is."
Deulofeu at the ready
One Spaniard determined to thwart Guardiola's in his quest to make history, Gerard Deulofeu is Watford's top goalscorer in all competitions this season.
Nine of his 12 goals this season have come in his last 13 games, with the Deulofeu scoring Watford's winner in their semi-final victory against Wolves.
Sent on as a substitute just after the hour, the former Barcelona man produced a brilliant chip to reduce the deficit.
After captain Troy Deeney had equalised from a penalty deep into added time, Deulofeu then completed the turnaround with another composed finish following a swift counter to make it 3-2.
Gracia's admitted the forward had been "angry" to find himself starting on the bench - and such is the impact Deulofeu can have, City might just be hoping he has used up all of his frustration in helping get the Hornets back to Wembley for the final.
Raheem Sterling has enjoyed a stand-out campaign for both club and country and the England star will hope to end the campaign with yet more silverware ahead of the UEFA Nations League finals.
The 24-year-old was named the Professional Footballers' Association Young Player of the Year and then voted as the 2019 Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers' Association.
Sterling converted the decisive spot-kick as City beat Chelsea on penalties to win the Carabao Cup final in February.
His 17 Premier League goals helped Guardiola's side defend their Premier League title - and Watford will only be too aware of his qualities after being on the receiving end of a hat-trick in the Premier League clash at the Etihad in March.
Manchester City's route to the final
Third round, January 6: Won 7-0 v Rotherham, Etihad Stadium
City fielded a strong side and showed no mercy against the Championship strugglers. Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, Nicolas Otamendi and Leroy Sane all got on the scoresheet for Guardiola's men, while the Millers' Semi Ajayi turned one into his own net.
Fourth round, January 26: Won 5-0 v Burnley, Etihad Stadium
The Clarets proved no obstacle for City, who inflicted a second 5-0 hammering on Sean Dyche's side in three months. This time the goals came from Jesus, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero with an own goal from Kevin Long.
Fifth round, February 16: Won 4-1 v Newport, Rodney Parade
After a goalless first half, City upped a gear to put an end to the League Two side's memorable cup run. Sane and Foden struck to put City on their way through. Padraig Amond threatened an unlikely comeback with a late reply but their hopes were quickly extinguished by Foden and Mahrez.
Quarter-finals, March 16: Won 3-2 v Swansea, Liberty Stadium
City came from behind to claim a place in the semi-finals with a dramatic, late and contentious victory at the Liberty Stadium. City trailed 2-0 after 29 minutes after a penalty from Matt Grimes and a fine effort from Bersant Celina but got themselves back into the game through Bernardo Silva after 69 minutes.
City went on to win in controversial circumstances, with debate over the penalty which allowed them to equalise and replays suggesting Aguero's headed winner should have been disallowed for offside.
Semi-finals, April 6: Won 1-0 v Brighton, Wembley
A diving header from Jesus in the fourth minute from a pinpoint De Bruyne cross allowed City to book their place in the final. Brighton did rally in the second half and Aymeric Laporte produced a fine clearance to deny Glenn Murray, while Kyle Walker may have been fortunate not to be sent off early on, but City were largely untroubled.
Veteran Brazilian goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes is expected to make his final Watford appearance at Wembley, having started all five of the FA Cup ties.
Hornets' fans might just be praying for some divine intervention to aid the 38-year-old former Tottenham stopper, likely to be playing one last game before hanging up his gloves.
His regular first-team opportunities now limited, Gomes has been contemplating retirement for a while - but will not have to worry about what the future might hold.
"I am prepared," Gomes said. "I got a call-up from God to be a pastor, so maybe this can happen."
Pep mindful of Watford strengths
Guardiola could become just the eighth manager to win the English top-flight, League Cup and FA Cup, after Bill Nicholson, Don Revie, Joe Mercer, Kenny Dalglish, George Graham, Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho; Mercer achieved the feat with Manchester City.
"We celebrated winning the league for a few days, but we've now been focused on Watford, as we know how incredibly difficult it was against them in the game at home," Guardiola said.
"It was the wrong decision from the referee to make it 1-0, and they have a lot of quality up front with [Roberto] Pereyra, [Will] Hughes, Deulofeu and [Troy] Deeney.
"The long balls to Deeney are always unstoppable, even with our tough defenders. Maybe, Deeney is the best central striker for setting the ball to his team-mates from long balls.
FA Cup final prize money
This season's winners will receive £3.6m, double last year's top prize, while the runners-up will scoop £1.8m.
"With [Abdoulaye] Doucoure and how he arrives to the 18-yard box, and with [Jose] Holebas who is an incredible set-piece taker, we know it will be difficult but hopefully for one more day we can be focused as the FA Cup deserves in order to be champions again."
Capoue: Nobody expects us to win
Etienne Capoue believes Watford's cup final opponents are the most impressive side he has seen since moving to England in 2013.
"The best team ever in my six years in England," he said of Guardiola's side. "Six years I have played against them and this year was the best team ever.
"Everyone says we have zero chances, so we are going to take it. Because everyone says Man City are the top team and will win easily, we are going to try and beat them and stay focused for 90 minutes, that is the main thing for us.
"Nobody expects us to win so we are working from our side very quietly and we are going to give it 100 per cent.
"I am playing for my family now. Playing for my kids and my wife as well. A five-year-old son, four-year-old daughter and one.
"They will be at Wembley. I hope they can join me in parading the trophy - although it might be too heavy for them."
Watford's route to the final
Third round, January 6: Won 2-0 v Woking, Laithwaite Community Stadium
Captain Troy Deeney came off the bench to wrap up Watford's third-round win over non-league Woking - who had Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler in the dugout as assistant manager.
Some 110 places separated the two clubs in the football pyramid, but the Cardinals gave a spirited performance. Will Hughes broke the deadlock in the 13th minute, yet it needed Deeney's late second-half effort to secure victory over the National League South side.
Fourth round, January 26: Won 2-0 v Newcastle, St James' Park
Andre Gray and Isaac Success justified Gracia's decision to rotate his entire team as they fired Watford into the fifth round. Gray's strike just after the hour and a late second from Success were enough to settle a forgettable tie in front of a crowd of 34,604 as the magic of the FA Cup failed to arrive on Tyneside, the two managers having made 18 changes between them.
Fifth round, February 15: Won 1-0 v QPR, Loftus Road
Another away tie saw Watford progress to the last eight, but Gracia's side had to ride their luck at Loftus Road. Championship strugglers QPR had wasted enough chances to build a convincing lead before Etienne Capoue's fortuitous effort in first-half stoppage time broke the deadlock.
The midfielder swept the ball in with a low, angled drive after Tom Cleverley's completely mis-hit shot had dropped at his feet in the penalty area following a corner, which proved enough to put the Premier League side through.
Quarter-finals, March 16: Won 2-1 v Crystal Palace, Vicarage Road
At last in front of their home supporters, the Hornets produced a late show to see off the Eagles and book a trip to Wembley. Capoue put Watford in front in the 27th minute. However, after Michy Batshuayi levelled on the hour - when he charged down a poor clearance from Adrian Mariappa - the tie looked all set for extra-time.
However, substitute Gray, who had not long been sent on, grabbed a winner with just 11 minutes left when he drilled in a clever chipped pass by Roberto Pereyra.
Semi-finals, April 7: Won 3-2 (after extra-time) v Wolves, Wembley
Substitute Gerard Deulofeu inspired Watford to only their second FA Cup final following an extraordinary 3-2 comeback win against Wolves. The Hornets looked to be heading out of the competition after goals from Matt Doherty and Raul Jimenez in each half put Nuno Espirito Santo's men in total control.
However, an exceptional clipped effort from Spaniard Deulofeu provided the catalyst for a staggering finish as Deeney then equalised with a stoppage-time penalty. Wolves were left on the back foot - and former Barcelona frontman Deulofeu secured his place in Hornets folklore by racing through in the first half of extra time to coolly slot home a low, angled effort, completing a most remarkable semi-final comeback.
Remember Ben Watson?
Should City need any warning of just what can happen when overwhelming favourites run out at Wembley for the FA Cup final, then a quick clip of Watson's late header for Wigan in 2013 should provide plenty of food for thought.
Roberto Mancini's men were expected to make light work of a Wigan side who had spent the whole season battling against relegation and eventually went down.
Nothing, though, went according to script as the Latics - who had been led onto the pitch by owner Dave Whelan, a man with his own 1960 FA Cup final story to tell - produced a major upset.
After Pablo Zabaleta had been shown a second yellow card during the closing stages, Wigan eventually made their extra man count in stoppage time when Watson, who had not long recovered from a broken leg, headed home a corner at the near post.
Mancini was sacked a couple of days later, while Championship-bound Wigan went on to play in Europe.
Sterling scored a second-half treble, including a controversial opener, as Manchester City beat Watford 3-1 to move four points clear in the title race back in March.
Sterling's first goal, 40 seconds after half-time, was initially ruled out for offside but after a long discussion, referee Paul Tierney overturned his own decision, with Daryl Janmaat's attempted block just before Sterling struck ruled as having played the winger onside.
There was nothing controversial about his second goal which arrived less than four minutes later, when Riyad Mahrez played the ball across the six-yard box and left it on a plate for him to slot home.
He made it three for the second Premier League hat-trick of his career just before the hour mark, showing superb composure to take David Silva's pass in his stride before riding two challenges and dinking the ball over Ben Foster.
A much-altered Watford team, who had made seven changes for the game, pulled one back when substitute Gerard Deulofeu slotted the ball under Ederson from Troy Deeney's flick-on, but that was as good as it got for the Hornets.
Man City team news
Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho is hoping to prove his fitness to face Watford.
The Brazilian, who missed the final three games of the champions' Premier League title run-in with a knee injury, returned to training this week.
Kevin De Bruyne could also feature after returning from a hamstring problem as a substitute at Brighton last week but left-back Benjamin Mendy has been ruled out through injury.
Man City provisional squad
Ederson, Muric, Danilo, Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Laporte, Kompany, Zinchenko, Delph, Gundogan, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, D Silva, B Silva, Sane, Sterling, Mahrez, Jesus, Aguero.
Watford team news
Watford will have Jose Holebas available The defender looked like missing out through suspension after he was sent off in the final Premier League game of the season against West Ham, but the Football Association rescinded his red card.
Boss Javi Gracia has a decision to make in goal between Ben Foster and Heurelho Gomes, who has played every round of the competition so far.
Watford provisional squad
Foster, Mariappa, Cathcart, Kiko, Holebas, Doucoure, Hughes, Britos, Capoue, Cleverley, Pereyra, Deulofeu, Deeney, Gomes, Janmaat, Masina, Kabasele, Sema, Chalobah, Success, Gray.
...Why the FA Cup final matters to Man Utd
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be playing close attention to events at Wembley. Should Watford lift the FA Cup, they would qualify for the Europa League group stages and Wolves would miss out.
A Hornets win would demote Manchester United into the second qualifying round, which starts on 25 July, with the United due to face Tottenham in Shanghai that day in the International Champions Cup.
Sky Bet odds
- Watford's only previous FA Cup final appearance came in 1984 under manager Graham Taylor, losing 0-2 to Everton at Wembley.
- Watford's 35-year wait for a second FA Cup final appearance is the longest since 1967, when Chelsea appeared in their second final 52 years after first featuring in 1915.
- No team to finish in the bottom half of the top-flight table has ever beaten the side to finish top in an FA Cup final - the previous lowest was in 1957, when 10th placed Aston Villa beat champions Manchester United.
- Man City have eliminated Watford from the FA Cup in each of their previous three ties, winning 3-1 in 1996-97, 3-0 in 2012-13 and 4-2 in 2013-14; Watford's only elimination of City in the FA Cup was in the 1985-86 season in the fourth round.
- Watford have lost their last 10 matches against Manchester City in all competitions, conceding 32 goals in those games. They are winless in 15 games against the Citizens (W0 D2 L13) since a 1-0 win in March 1989 in the second tier.
- Sergio Aguero has been involved in 12 goals in just seven appearances against Watford for Manchester City in all competitions (10 goals, 2 assists), including two hat-tricks - one of which was in a 4-2 FA Cup win in January 2014.
- Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Man City striker Aguero has scored 18 FA Cup goals - three more than any other player; the Argentinian has scored in every round he's played in barring the final, failing to score in the 2013 final against Wigan.
- In his entire managerial career, Pep Guardiola only has a better 100% win record against four teams than he does against Watford (six wins out of six) - Malaga (8/8) and Hannover 96, Werder Bremen and West Ham (7/7).
Follow Man City vs Watford in our dedicated live blog on the Sky Sports app and SkySports.com on Saturday.