Stoke and Manchester City head into the FA Cup Final at Wembley hoping to end long runs without a trophy. Stoke haven’t won a major trophy since their League Cup triumph in 1972 while Manchester City’s trophy drought has lasted 35 years.
Manchester City head into the contest as favourites and will be full of confidence following their 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur which saw them qualify for the Champions League for the first time. City will therefore be looking to complete a memorable week for the club by ending their search for a trophy and to finally pull down the famous ‘ticker banner’ at Old Trafford which the Manchester United fans tauntingly display to mark the years that their local rivals have gone without a trophy.
Stoke meanwhile go into the contest with nothing to lose and all to gain. They have had a successful season, currently sitting in a credible 8th spot in the league and have qualified for the Europa Cup by reaching today’s final. The Potters are good form, unbeaten in four games and last weekend outfought Arsenal to win 3-1 at the Britannia Stadium.
Even though Stoke are massive underdogs for the game, Manchester City can expect a fierce contest as Stoke are well known for the relentless pressure they put on the opposition. Then you have to add in Rory Delap’s famous long throws that have cause opposing teams all sorts of problems in the past due to their speed and low trajectory. Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that 44.2% of Stoke’s goals have come from set pieces this year, the highest percentage in the league. With the likes of Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth and Kenwyne Jones, the team possesses a big aerial threat so it’s no real surprise to see that they have scored so many goals from set plays this season.
Furthermore, a lot has been said about the team’s two wingers in the build up to the game. Jermaine Pennant has been in brilliant form of late while many believe that Matthew Etherington’s inclusion will be vital for Stoke if they are going to have any chance of causing an upset. Etherington has been recovering from a hamstring injury and will face a late fitness test tomorrow. If he does play then Manchester City will have to deal with two pacy wingers who love to take defenders on and often put good quality balls into the box.
Manchester City cannot take Stoke lightly and in the pre-match press conference, City manager Roberto Mancini claimed that today’s test will be harder than the one his side faced when they played Manchester United in the semi final. The Italian said, “Saturday will be harder than United. Stoke are a strong team and a very difficult team. To think they are an easy team would be a mistake. If we want to win we need to play very well. We should pay attention in every situation. We cannot concede anything,”
So can Stoke pull off a famous win? It will be a tough ask but this is the FA Cup remember and it seems anything can happen in this famous tournament.