FA Cup final talking points as Man City aim to secure domestic treble, against Watford

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Mentor: Guardiola (c) has had a great effect on Sterling and Sane.

Premier League champions Manchester City will take on Watford in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola’s side will be out to secure a clean sweep of all three domestic trophies when they face Javi Gracia’s well-drilled team.

Here, Press Association Sport’s Jim van Wijk takes a looks at some of the key talking points ahead of the showpiece fixture.

Treble up

The battle for the Premier League title proved to be the most exciting in years, as City held off the challenge of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to defend their crown following victory at Brighton on Sunday.

With the two other domestic trophies already in the bag, Pep Guardiola’s men are on the verge of an impressive clean sweep – which might just help ease the pain of their Champions League shortcomings.

However, as the history of the famous old knockout competition shows, take nothing for granted on FA Cup final day.

Deulofeu at the ready

Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu helped the Hornets produce a remarkable recovery to beat Wolves after extra-time in their semi-final, having been 2-0 down with just 11 minutes to go.

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.

Sterling effort

City’s England forward Raheem Sterling has enjoyed a stand-out campaign for both club and country.

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 secure the title – and another at Wembley could just seal a domestic treble.

Farewell Heurelho

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.”

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.

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FA Cup final: Vincent Kompany claims Man City are hungry for more silverware

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Vincent Kompany claims Manchester City have the hunger of lions as they chase more silverware in Saturday’s FA Cup final.

City secured their second trophy of the season as they finally saw off Liverpool in a thrilling Premier League title race last Sunday.

They can now complete an unprecedented domestic treble by beating Watford at Wembley and Kompany has warned that last week’s celebrations will not have blunted their edge.

The City captain, who has claimed nine major trophies with the club, said: “It’s not about adding that achievement 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.

“We’re a big team and there’s no denying this. I’m so eager to play the FA Cup final. I’m so motivated.”

City showed their champion qualities as they won their last 14 Premier League games to hold off Liverpool by just one point.

That determination, under intense pressure, saw them become the first side to retain the title in a decade.

Kompany played an inspirational role towards the end of the run-in, most notably with a stunning winner in the penultimate game against Leicester.

The 33-year-old, whose future is unclear with his contract due to expire this summer, said: “My style is pretty simple.

“Every now and then when things are getting too comfortable, I go a little aggressive in training or I speak up and say what I think.

“But the main thing is that these guys, together with the manager, are always able to understand what the priority is. We focus on winning games.

“Winning one title was not enough, it had been done before. Back to back – that is special.”

City are clear favourites against a Watford side that have won just one of their last six games since their semi-final victory over Wolves, but Kompany will take nothing for granted.

The Belgian said: “You can’t be complacent going into any game. To have reached this final and coming up against Watford is an achievement in itself, but now we need to try and win it.”

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Who was champion and who showed relegation form in our 2018/19 Premier League predictions

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Man City finished top of the table for a second straight season.

The Premier League ended on Sunday with Manchester City pipping Liverpool by a point to win a second straight league title – the first side to do so in a decade.

As the season draws to a close, it’s time to look back at our writers’ Premier League predictions from last summer and see how they fared.

Alex ReaChris BaileyBrendon Netto, Matt Jones and Aditya Devavrat put their heads together in August to decide on topics such as the champions and who would be the biggest flop – but who got it right and who got it horribly wrong?

CHAMPIONS 

Manchester City v Chelsea - FA Community Shield

Man City won the title on the final day, finishing with 98 points, one ahead of Liverpool. Hats off to three of our writers for their picks, and one came close to looking like a genius – while another was way off the mark.

AR: Liverpool – Bold? The Reds bet big in the market and whether he likes it or not, Jurgen Klopp has to show return on that investment. They have the style and squad to challenge Manchester City, now they just need the mentality to overtake them. 

Verdict: Close, but wrong

CB: Manchester City – They could do with a rival for Fernandinho but apart from that, City have almost bottomless depth. Bernardo is set to take a huge leap, Phil Foden is coming through, Benjamin Mendy is fit. The rich get richer. 

Right

BN: Manchester City – Quiet in the transfer window but apart from losing out on Jorginho, there’s little you’d change of this City side. Their convincing Community Shield victory points to another domineering campaign. 

Right

MJ: Manchester City – There was a 19-point gap to second last season and I can’t see that being made up by the rest. Liverpool are the next best team but City are special under Pep Guardiola.

Right

AD: Manchester United – An unpopular pick given Man City’s pedigree and Liverpool’s transfer business – not to mention United’s turbulent summer. But the squad is packed with talented players. If Jose Mourinho can get the best out of Paul Pogba, the title will head back to Old Trafford. 

Wrong. Very wrong.

TOP FOUR

Liverpool v Borussia Dortmund - International Champions Cup 2018

City and Liverpool were joined by Chelsea and Tottenham in the top four. Arsenal finished fifth, but could still qualify for the Champions League if they beat Chelsea in next week’s Europa League final.

AR: Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal, Man United – Unai Emery’s direct style should freshen an Arsenal team intact from the World Cup. City, although quiet in the market, are still miles ahead of the rest, particularly United who will just sneak in ahead of a Chelsea in transition and a spent Spurs. 

Verdict: 2/4

CB: Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal – Liverpool’s recruitment would see them champions in any other year but they’re up against an incredible City. Unai Emery was installed early at Arsenal while Maurizio Sarri wasn’t at Chelsea, and has acquired reinforcements whereas Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham haven’t.

2/4

BN: Man City, Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea – The north London sides are capable of scoring freely but also likely to drop too many points. Expect more disjointed displays from United while Liverpool will push City. A lack of goals up front leaves Chelsea trailing.

3/4

MJ: Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal – Liverpool are City’s biggest threat but I still don’t think it’s their year. United will be hard to beat again but moody Mourinho lacks magic. Unai Emery will get Gunners firing.

2/4

AD: United, City, Liverpool, Spurs – Chelsea and Arsenal haven’t done enough to return to the top four. Even though Tottenham are yet to make a signing this summer, their squad remains better than that of their London rivals, while United, City, and Liverpool are far ahead.

3/4

RELEGATION

Newcastle United v FC Augsburg - Pre-Season Friendly

Huddersfield, Fulham and Cardiff were the teams relegated to the Championship, with the latter two going straight back down after gaining promotion last summer and Huddersfield returning to the second division after a two-year stay in the Premier League.

AR: Huddersfield, Watford, Cardiff – The bottom will be more competitive than the top. Huddersfield haven’t solved their chronic issues in front of goal while Watford’s best player joined Everton. Cardiff were not even considered promotion challengers last season and are the league’s worst side.

Verdict: 2/3, but very wrong on Watford, who finished 11th and were in a battle for seventh until the end the season.

CB: Watford, Huddersfield, Newcastle – Watford have left it too late to reinvest the Richarlison money, Huddersfield lack the seasoned campaigners to survive a second year, and not even Rafa Benitez can drag Newcastle out of their Ashley-induced nightmare this time.

Verdict: 1/3. Newcastle were in the relegation battle for a while but survived comfortably in the end, and Watford have defied the critics.

BN: Southampton, Watford, Cardiff – Southampton narrowly escaped the drop last time and haven’t strengthened. Watford have been uninspiring under Javi Gracia and are seriously lacking quality while Cardiff are being led by serial Premier League failure Neil Warnock. 

Verdict: 1/3. Southampton were caught in the relegation battle all season and only secured survival with two weeks to go. Watford, of course, were a surprise package.

MJ: Cardiff, Huddersfield, Southampton – Cardiff will be gritty but completely lack quality, Southampton were lucky to stay up and have been unimpressive in the market while losing their best player. The Terriers lack bite. 

Verdict: 2/3. And very close to getting all three correct given Southampton looked like relegation candidates for a long while.

AD: Brighton, Huddersfield, Cardiff City – Survival was a supreme achievement for Brighton and Huddersfield last season, but this year’s race will be even tougher given how strong newly-promoted Fulham and Wolves look. Cardiff’s failure to match those two will see them head straight back down.

Verdict: 2/3. Brighton survived by the skin of their teeth, securing their Premier League status in only the penultimate week of the season.

BEST SIGNING 

Bury v Liverpool - Pre-Season Friendly

Though there’s no official award for this, we recently picked out the top five buys of the season: Lucas Digne (Everton), Fabian Schar (Newcastle), David Brooks (Bournemouth), Alisson (Liverpool), Raul Jimenez (Wolves). None of those players had made it in our predictions, but two of our picks, Jean-Michael Seri and Naby Keita, ended up in the worst buys of the season instead.

AR: Jean Michael Seri – Fulham’s ambition is best epitomised in the signing of Seri. The 27-year-old moves the ball superbly and is a highly intelligent, dynamic midfielder. It’s the season of midfield maestros and Seri can be an instant hit.

Verdict: Wrong. Seri looked like a coup when Fulham signed him, but both player and club utterly flopped this season. 

CB: Lucas TorreiraFor years and years Arsene Wenger neglected to add a blood-and-guts midfielder to his side. He won’t win awards for style but the 22-year-old’s tenacity may well bring substance back to the Emirates.

Verdict: Wrong. Torreira did indeed add bite to Arsenal’s midfield, and for the first half of the season he was their best player in the position. But his form tapered off in the second half. 

BN: Jorginho – In terms of influence, Jorginho is likely to offer the most. The Italian is poised to become the Premier League’s new pass master and usher in a new brand of football at Chelsea.

Verdict: Wrong. Jorginho was often seen as the symbol of Sarri’s struggles as Chelsea manager this season – though some of the criticism was over the top.

MJ: Naby Keita – Adds steel and energy to Liverpool and has an engine to rival N’Golo Kante. Will be a massive help to Jordan Henderson and knows where the goal is, bagging nine for Leipzig last year.

Verdict: Wrong. Keita ended up in our worst five, though he showed signs of his quality at the end of the season.

AD: Felipe Anderson – West Ham have made a habit of making a splash in the transfer market – often with little pay-off on the pitch. But Anderson is supremely talented, blessed with pace, technical ability and vision. He should thrive under Manuel Pellegrini.

Verdict: Wrong. Anderson didn’t make our top five – though he definitely did thrive under Pellegrini this season.

GOLDEN BOOT 

FBL-ENG-LIVERPOOL-NAPOLI

The Golden Boot was shared by Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, all three of whom finished with 22 goals. Nobody saw Mane or Aubameyang topping the charts, but Salah, last season’s sole Golden Boot winner, was a popular choice.

AR: Mohamed Salah – Liverpool have added to their armoury over the summer and with extra weapons pointed at them, teams will struggle even more to contain the Egyptian King. Expect Romelu Lukaku to run him close, though.

Verdict: Right

CB: Mohamed Salah – Given his form in pre-season he’s surely going to hit the ground at break-neck speed. With Lukaku and Harry Kane feeling the after-effects of a longer World Cup campaign, it’ll be difficult to play catch-up.

Right

BN: Mohamed Salah – Last season may seem like a freak campaign for the Egyptian but over the summer, both at the World Cup and in pre-season, he’s continued to be a standout goal threat. Liverpool will play to his strengths.

Right

MJ: Harry Kane – Hotshot Harry is a pure goal scorer. Salah was unbelievable last year but it’s impossible for him to hit the same heights plus Liverpool have other threats.

Wrong

AD: Harry Kane – Losing out to Salah last season will have hurt. Coming off the back of winning the World Cup Golden Boot, however, Kane should keep going from strength to strength, holding everyone else off to regain his crown.

Wrong

FLOP 

GettyImages-1006018562

One of the harder ones to judge…

AR: Maurizio Sarri – The Italian is under enormous pressure at Chelsea. His style requires hours on the training pitch and his late arrival coupled with the World Cup and transfer chaos has sliced through his available time with the squad. 

Verdict: Sarri’s had his critics this season but Chelsea finished in the top four and have made two cup finals, with a chance of winning the Europa League. Wrong.

CB: Jack Wilshere – A lot of fanfare has surrounded West Ham’s transfer window, not least the free transfer of Irons-supporting Wilshere. But expectations are far too high and they are woefully short deeper in midfield. Besides, remember his Bournemouth stint?

Verdict: Eight appearances all season, just one assist, no goals. Right. 

BN: Dele Alli – He didn’t quite maintain his lofty standards last season and was guilty of inconsistency. Following a challenging World Cup campaign, the young midfielder may find it difficult to get going again.

Verdict: Only seven goals and six assists across all competitions this season, after hitting double digits in both in 2017/18. Two assists in Tottenham’s memorable Champions League semi-final comeback, but not enough overall. Right. 

MJ: Tottenham – Mauricio Pochettino did very little business last summer and none this year. Kane and Christian Eriksen can only do so much carrying. Rivals are improving as they stand still. 

Verdict: Top four yet again, brief title challenge, and a first-ever Champions League final. Wrong

AD: Marco Silva – Everton have had another strange transfer window, and don’t look much stronger than before. Silva, whose reputation is based on flirting with survival at Hull City, making a quick start with Watford, and not much else, may struggle to improve the Toffees.

Verdict: Eighth isn’t awful. It’s also exactly where Everton were in 2017/18. They improved by five points under Silva but struggled at times and were maddeningly inconsistent. Enough to call him a flop? Jury’s still out, but for now: Wrong. 

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