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Pep Guardiola‘s side stand on the brink of an achievement once described as “impossible” by Sir Alex Ferguson after retaining their Premier League title and banishing Liverpool to second place with a 4-1 comeback win at Brighton on the final day of the top-flight season.
City – winners of 14 straight matches – had already kept hold of the League Cup courtesy of a penalty-shootout victory over Chelsea in February and are favourites to win football’s oldest club competition for the sixth time on their first return to the final since being stunned by Wigan in 2013.
Opponents Watford, meanwhile, are set to compete in only their second-ever FA Cup Final and first since Graham Taylor’s team featuring the likes of John Barnes suffered a 2-0 defeat to Everton in the 1984 showpiece.
Despite a largely impressive season, Javi Gracia‘s Hornets have hardly enjoyed the best preparation for Wembley, closing the league year with three successive losses that ultimately cost them a top-half finish.
They have lost their last 10 matches against City, shipping 32 goals in the process.
Here’s how you can see the action on TV and online…
TV channel, live stream and online coverage
The match will be televised live on BT Sport 2 and BT Sport 4K UHD, with coverage starting at 4pm. BT Sport subscribers will be able to stream the match online via the video player and the BT Sport app.
Coverage of the game will also be live on BBC One from 3:55pm, with an earlier FA Cup build-up show commencing at 2pm.
You can also follow all the action with Standard Sport‘s LIVE blog from Wembley.
Man City XI [4-3-3]: Ederson, Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Zinchenko, De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva, Bernardo, Aguero, Sterling
Watford XI [4-5-1]: Gomes, Janmaat, Cathcart, Mariappa, Holebas, Femenia, Doucoure, Capoue, Hughes, Pereyra, Deeney
Latest team news
Fernandinho will hope to return to the Manchester City starting line-up for Saturday’s FA Cup Final against Watford as Pep Guardiola’s side look to clinch a domestic treble.
The Brazilian midfielder has been sidelined since the Manchester derby win over United due to a knee injury, but wore strapping on the affected area during training this week and there is hope he will be fit to play at least some part at Wembley.
Kevin De Bruyne could return to the first XI after coming on as a late substitute on the final day of the Premier League season having recovered from a hamstring issue.
Vincent Kompany is expected to play in what could be the final competitive appearance of his 11-year City career, but Benjamin Mendy recently returned to Barcelona for further treatment on a lingering knee problem.
Claudio Bravo (Achilles) remains a long-term absentee.
Jose Holebas is available for Watford after seeing an appeal against his dismissal in the defeat by West Ham last weekend upheld by the FA.
The veteran left-back was sent off shortly after half-time of the heavy 4-1 loss at Vicarage Road for bringing down Michail Antonio, but the red card was rescinded 24 hours later.
Semi-final hero Gerard Deulofeu was substituted against West Ham with a dead leg and did not take part in full training on Wednesday, but is set to be fit and available for selection for this weekend’s final.
Tom Cleverley is also in contention despite having only played 24 minutes of football since returning from a calf injury earlier this month.
However, Sebastian Prodl (knee) and midfielder Domingos Quina (shoulder) are both absent.
Loss to Everton hit Graham really hard… being beaten at Wembley sticks with you
By Kenny Jackett
If you lose any game at Wembley, it is devastating. It is the worst place to be beaten. But it is strange because you should be pleased to a degree at having got there.
That particular day for the 1984 FA Cup Final, we came up against a very strong Everton side. Without the European ban on English clubs at the time, they may well have gone on and won major silverware in Europe.
I thought Everton were the better side, I felt they shaded it. They had more physical power than us and they had a good team.
They deserved to win, but the overriding emotion was of big disappointment, really. Whenever you lose at Wembley it is hard to see past that.
I can look back now and see an overall picture of where the club were going and it was a good step forward.
I do think the Cup Final was a culmination of a lot of good years and the club only came through the divisions when Sir Elton John and Graham Taylor teamed up.
There was always ambition with those two, especially if you look at Elton’s profile and wealth.
It is dwarfed now with what people put into clubs, but Watford were well funded back then.
It wasn’t ridiculous, but when somebody picks up a club like that in the fourth tier of English football and takes it right the way through to finishing second to Liverpool, that shows there was a lot of ambition. It was a great time at the club.
There would be quite a lot of social events. Elton would put a garden party on at his house every pre-season where he would invite everybody — and I mean everybody at the club — over to his place in Windsor.
There would be pre-season tours, too. We went all over the world for quite a few years. I didn’t go as I was injured, but they went to New Zealand and Australia.
There were two tours to China as well, which was innovative at the time. We really did travel the world and a big part of that was the chairman at that time. He may have been a superstar, but he was very driven in terms of football.
Graham Taylor and Elton John were very close and it was a good combination. They drove the club forward and you could see their ambition.
They were impressive in their knowledge and ambition and the decisions they made. They ran the club from top to bottom. It was obviously a very successful period and I would suggest the differing abilities of both complimented each other well.
You saw when Graham passed away what he meant, not just to football people, but to the whole town.
Watford were the original family club and Graham put a big emphasis on public appearances.
They could be almost anything, to be honest. It could be that we all had to go and have a pancake race through Watford high street, attend golf days, anything and everything.
Any normal community activity that the club could get involved in, they would. Graham was the driving force behind that.
I do think, though, that the loss in 1984 really disappointed him. Speaking to him after, maybe he thought he should have played Pat Rice in that game. That particular loss hit him hard — it does if you are a manager.
Losing finals, big games, sticks with you. There is no doubt about that.
You can say it is a successful period of your career or a successful period of the club’s, but really in the end it is about winning at Wembley — it is not necessarily about playing there. That is the truth of the matter.
Open-top bus procession planned if Hornets win FA Cup
Watford are planning to hold a victory parade 24 hours after the FA Cup Final if they beat Manchester City at Wembley.
The club have plans in place with Watford Council for an open-top bus procession through Cassiobury Park on Sunday to allow fans to celebrate what would be their first-ever major trophy.
Watford are heavy underdogs in their first FA Cup Final since 1984 — a match they lost to Everton.
Watford held a similar parade in 2015 when they secured promotion to the Premier League, when around 20,000 fans poured into the park to celebrate with the team.
The club have been given an allocation of more than 30,000 at Wembley but Peter Taylor, the mayor of Watford, has confirmed the Wembley showpiece will be shown on a big screen in Cassiobury Park for fans who have been unable to get tickets.
Fans have also been asked to “paint the town yellow”, with volunteers from the 1881 Movement hanging bunting across the town’s High Street and club flags hanging around the town.
Watford will be led out at Wembley by Sir Elton John’s two young sons.
The club’s former chairman is unable to attend the Final because the match clashes with a show in Denmark on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. But sons Zachary, eight, and Elijah, six, will walk the team out as mascots alongside captain Troy Deeney. Zachary is currently a member of the Watford academy.
Meanwhile, Gerard Deulofeu is in contention to play after recovering from a dead leg, but the Spaniard will have to fight for a starting spot because head coach Javi Gracia may opt to play captain Troy Deeney up front on his own and use an extra man in midfield.
Gracia has favoured a 4-4-2 formation this season, but needs to find a way to nullify the attacking threat of Pep Guardiola’s City and. In March, the Spaniard played five at the back in Watford’s 3-1 Premier League defeat at the Etihad.
Deulofeu was Watford’s hero in the semi-final, when he came off the bench to score twice in the 3-2 win against Wolves.
The 25-year-old Spain forward has continued that good form since then, scoring three goals in his last five games, and is the club’s top scorer this season after finding the net 12 times.
His return to fitness leaves Gracia facing a tough decision over his starting line-up as Watford bid for their first-ever major trophy.
City are chasing an unprecedented domestic treble, having already claimed the League title and the League Cup.
Hughes: ‘I’m in the FA Cup Final now but as a kid I wanted to be Rafael Nadal’
Had things turned out differently, Will Hughes could have been gracing the turf of Wimbledon and not Wembley.
The Watford midfielder was a talented tennis player in his youth, so much so that by the time he got to the age of 12 it was a choice between pursuing a professional career in that sport or football.
Hughes plumped for the latter, a decision which appears entirely vindicated given that on Saturday he will be facing Manchester City in an FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.
Had he taken the other path, however, it is interesting to note which tennis player he would have been modelling his game on.
“If tennis is the route I was taking probably Rafael Nadal,” he tells Standard Sport. “I was just left-hand forehand, that’s all I had.”
There are similarities between Nadal and Hughes. Both burst onto the scene as teenage stars and over the years their games have struck a balance between the flair of their youth and a maturing work ethic.
At the age of 24, Hughes has now fully established himself as a Premier League player after his second season in the top-flight. He was long tipped to make it to the summit ever since he made his professional debut at the age of 16 for Derby County.
Big clubs began to circle back then and he became something of a local celebrity to the point where he would be stopped simply on his way to the supermarket.
At that time he was a tricky playmaker, blessed with the ability to skip past a defender and pick out attackers with a killer pass. Those elements still remain in Hughes’s game today but under Watford head coach Javi Gracia he has become a more rounded player who can operate out wide, too.
“I have matured a lot. When I was younger I came through as more of a technical player and that was all I was really known for,” he says.
“In the Premier League you have to adapt quickly, concentration levels have to be heightened a lot because you can get caught out. You can’t just be a flair player in the Premier League.
“You have to do the dirty side and you have to concentrate because a lapse in concentration for a few seconds and you get punished.”
Hughes’s understanding that his game needed to adapt is testament to his maturity and speaking to him you realise he is not your average footballer. Indeed, when he was out injured in 2015 with a knee injury he used the time to learn Spanish, albeit with a varying degree of success.
“I don’t think Javi has been too impressed with my Spanish,” the midfielder says with a smile. “I did give it a go a few years ago but it is very difficult to do.
“I think everyone would want to learn a language but it is something you have to put hours and hours into. Maybe it is something I will look at later in life.”
It is likely Hughes will have more Spanish-related headaches on Saturday, when he comes up against Pep Guardiola’s champions.
He is well aware of how the City boss has transformed the side into a formidable force that stand on the brink of an unprecedented domestic treble and he knows the challenge he and his team-mates face.
Former England U-21 international Hughes loved watching Guardiola’s Barcelona team. Lionel Messi caught his eye but the midfield trio of Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Xavi lured him in, too.
“Some of the stuff they did was just genius,” he says. “It is the best football I have ever seen.”
Barcelona’s midfield may have seduced Hughes but his childhood hero was Steven Gerrard, given that he was a Liverpool fan.
Hughes just loved the way the former Reds captain carried himself on and off the pitch, while it was his ability to perform in the biggest games that also struck Hughes – such as when Gerrard scored a last-minute equaliser against West Ham in the 2006 FA Cup Final.
“That sticks out straight away,” he says. “It was a rollercoaster of emotions during that game. Then for him to do that in the last minute was just unreal. He was 100 per cent the man for the big occasion.”
Hughes will be hoping he is the man for the big occasion at Wembley.
Few give the Hornets a chance against City but, after Liverpool and Tottenham’s stunning comebacks in the Champions League semi-finals, Hughes is starting to dream.
“Of course, everyone says good things come in threes,” says Hughes with a grin.
“We are underdogs but it is a one-off game and all the pressure will be on them to win.”
But what about if Watford did pull off the unthinkable and won the FA Cup?
“I’d probably retire after that,” Hughes jokes… and perhaps take up tennis!
Alan Smith: How I think Watford can spring a shock tomorrow…
Using their Key Man Troy Deeney
Playing up top on his own, the burly centre-forward has got to be cute with his movement to occupy City’s centre-backs. The skipper represents Watford’s heart and soul and a good game from him lifts everyone else.
Pressing the keeper
City have few weaknesses, of course — but will Watford have the courage to press high when Ederson has the ball at his feet? It might be worth a try, given the keeper likes to take risks.
Best Chance of Stopping City Defend deep and in numbers to prevent them from slipping round the back. After that, it’s about staying organised, working tirelessly for each other and enjoying that essential bit of luck. Up the other end, set pieces could be dangerous with Watford’s height and power.
…and Countering the Carousel
It is incredibly difficult getting a grip on City’s midfield where the movement and speed of passing can be dizzyingly swift. But in Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue, Watford are blessed with a solid partnership bearing a good understanding that can at least offer the defence welcome protection.
Impact from the bench
As shown in the semi-final against Wolves, Gerard Deulofeu can do things with a football most others can’t. But the hard bit for Watford is staying in the contest long enough to use their special weapon. If they can manage that, the Spaniard could produce something extraordinary.
Alan Smith: Sure, City have no money issues, but the genius of Pep makes them tick
Let me ask you something. If a club is wealthy and attractive enough to employ the best manager who is then given the funds to buy the best players, does that guarantee success?
I am talking, of course, about Manchester City, the club lying on the cusp of making history if they beat Watford tomorrow in the FA Cup Final to become the first team ever to clinch England’s domestic treble.
Supporters of other clubs naturally deride City’s dominance, claiming it’s all down to petro dollars pouring in from Abu Dhabi, where no expense is spared to ensure their ‘plaything’ finishes on top.
And you’ve got to have a fair bit of sympathy for that particular argument, seeing as the rest of the Premier League cannot afford to operate on the same level.
For a time, it was the same with Chelsea and Roman Abramovich. People thought the Russian oligarch had simply bought success by throwing money around. But is there more to it than that in City’s case? Or was it simply a formality that once Pep Guardiola took charge trophies would start piling up at a steady rate?
Well, I think it was a formality, not so much because Pep had millions to spend, more that he possessed the outstanding coaching ability and rabid desire to keep pushing top players to ever-greater heights. There aren’t many about like that.
Jose Mourinho was similar in his first spell at Chelsea. Just like Guardiola, he had a precious gift for extracting every ounce of effort from super-talented individuals. Really, that’s what it boils down to in situations like this — earmarking a manager who can expertly command a group of multi-millionaires who quickly lose their edge under the wrong leader. You’ve only got to look across town at Manchester United to see how things can implode when the set-up isn’t right.
So, all hail Guardiola, a very special character destined to go down as one of the greatest football coaches that ever lived. And it isn’t just his impact on the training ground where he continually demands ultra-high standards.
Look at the players brought into the club. I mean, the world wasn’t really talking excitedly about Aymeric Laporte when the Frenchman was bought from Athletic Bilbao. But Pep and his colleagues saw something special in a defender who has gone on to excel as a City lynchpin.
It’s the same for Bernardo Silva. Yes, everyone knew of his talent at Monaco, but who could have predicted the little Portuguese playmaker would blossom like this? The player himself naturally deserves a lot of credit, but so does Guardiola for having the vision.
The Spaniard, in fact, has a hand in everything. Whatever happens on that pitch can usually be traced back to the man’s influence. Granted, Manchester City have all the money in the world. But without their manager’s genius, it would quickly devalue.
Guardiola hopes late fitness test will clear Fernandinho for Final
Fernandinho is pushing hard to ready for tomorrow’s FA Cup Final after missing the final weeks of the season with a knee injury, reports James Robson.
The Manchester City midfielder wore strapping on his knee during training this week and his involvement in preparations has raised hope he will at least be able to make the bench.
Pep Guardiola is desperate for the Brazilian to play a part in the Final and he will be assessed before the manager makes a decision.
The Premier League champions stand on the brink of history, knowing victory will secure an unprecedented domestic treble.
Guardiola is wary of Watford’s aerial threat and considers Fernandinho one of his most effective players when defending set pieces. Ilkay Gundogan has been deputising for the 34-year-old, but does not provide the physical presence of Fernandinho, which could be vital against Javi Gracia’s Watford.
Guardiola spoke of his concerns about his side’s strength in the air after Glenn Murray’s headed goal in last week’s 4-1 win against Brighton.
“I am the tallest guy,” said the Catalan. “In the set pieces it is go to the church to pray. It is a drama.”
Kevin de Bruyne is also pushing to start at Wembley after recovering from a hamstring injury, while Vincent Kompany is desperate to play what could be his final game for the club.
The City captain is a free agent this summer, but insists his focus is on more glory after already lifting the title and the League Cup this season.
“I’m so eager to play the FA Cup Final, I’m so motivated,” said the 33-year-old Belgium centre-half.
“It’s not about adding that achievement (the treble) to my CV. I don’t care about my CV.
“I know this team and they are like a pack of lions. When this team is hungry, they are such a special team.
“I’m going to do everything I can to put a bit of blood in that water, so this team gets even hungrier!”
Gracia issues rally cry: ‘We have perfect chance to make history in FA Cup Final’
Javi Gracia has told his Watford players that Saturday’s Wembley stadium showpiece against Manchester City is the perfect moment to make history, writes Simon Collings.
Watford have progressed to reach their first FA Cup Final since 1984, when Graham Taylor was the manager and Sir Elton John owned the club. The Hornets, who throughout their 121-year history have never won a major trophy, lost 2-0 that day to Everton.
All that can change on Saturday, however, if Gracia’s side can defy the odds by beating City, who are chasing an unprecedented domestic treble.
Pep Guardiola’s team are strong favourites to lift the famous old trophy, but 49-year-old Spaniard Gracia believes this is the moment for his Watford players to write themselves into the history books by pulling off an unlikely victory.
“I know all the important dates for the club — or finals in this case — but I don’t need all these things to feel more pressure,” said Gracia. “I know perfectly it is an important day, it is an important game. I would like to make history with the club — and to do it we need to win.
“After that we will see if we play another final next season or not, but this is the moment. It is our moment and we have to feel it. I am sure the players know it and they will be ready to give their best.”
Usually so calm and collected, Gracia has admitted he will be emotional at Wembley on Saturday when Watford take on the English champions, who have been in such devastating form all season.
His mother is flying over from Spain for the game, which will be the first time she has seen her son coach in England.
“My mum is coming for the Final,” said Gracia, who coached in Spain and Russia, with Rubin Kazan, before arriving at Vicarage Road in January of last year. “I haven’t see her for a long time, maybe one year. It’s special. She tried to come before and she couldn’t. Now it is the last game [of the season], it is the best chance to be here to see me and her grandsons.
“For sure, it is a good moment for me. I like that my family will be there because my wife and my children are always here, but the rest of them are coming. I think it is a good game to enjoy — not only to win, which we try, but I think it is a good day for all of Watford’s fans and my family.
“It will be something different, something special. But I want to feel it, I want to live it. We deserve this moment.
“We have played during all this season to have this chance. To be there with Watford, with my players, it will be difficult to explain.”
Welcome to the Evening Standard’s LIVE coverage of the FA Cup Final as Watford face Man City at Wembley Stadium.