On Saturday, Manchester City meet Watford in the 2019 FA Cup Final. If they win, it will be the third leg in a quite remarkable, record-breaking domestic treble, in which they have already won the Carabao (League) Cup and the Premier League title.
If they can pull it off, they will be the first English side ever to achieve this feat, and the only thing standing between them and a place in the history books is Javi Gracia’s Watford side who will be looking to create a bit of history of their own.
The Hornets have yet to lift a cup in their 121-year history, so it won’t just be Pep Guardiola’s men who will be looking for a place in their club’s folklore on Saturday.
But naturally, it will be City who start as hot favourites – a position they’ve held since the start of this year’s tournament – and with so much at stake it’s undeniably tough to find a good case for a Watford win. But we’ll explore all avenues.
What can’t be ignored is the fine run of form that Man City are on and to have won 14 games on the spin in order to clinch the Premier League title with Liverpool breathing down their necks was an outstanding achievement.
TOP TIP! – City to win 3-1 @ 10/111.00+100010.0010.00-0.10 / Deulofeu as first scorer @ 16/117.00+160016.0016.00-0.06
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Even at the weekend, when they came from behind to win 4-1 at Brighton and secure the title, the pressure appeared inconsequential as the sky-blue machine closed in on the trophy.
The City mindset is based solely on winning, even under the most extreme pressure, and Guardiola’s knack of being able to give his players a platform on which to produce their best level of performance, even in moments of heightened pressure, is something quite unique.
If City do crack on Saturday, it will be down to individual errors, brilliance, or a tactical masterstroke from Gracia, but it won’t be because they can’t handle the occasion.
In addition, Guardiola is also a master of maintaining the hunger in his squad and there will certainly be no let-up just because they already won two major trophies this season. In the aftermath of Sunday’s win at Brighton, and following the award of the EPL trophy, it was telling how many City players spoke of their desire to now go on and secure the treble.
All of which adds up to what looks an almost impossible task for Watford, but for those looking for a risky bet there are a few pointers that may offer up hope of a shock result.
For starters, City have form of losing FA Cup finals from positions of strength, with the example being the 2013 FA Cup Final when they were beaten 1-0 by Wigan Athletic, who later went on to be relegated. So it can be done – albeit it needed a tactical masterclass from the then Wigan manager Roberto Martinez to hold City and then hit them with a late goal from a set-piece.
Key to Wigan’s win that afternoon was how they were able to upset City’s passing rhythm and for the Hornets to get anywhere close to that level of success they must do the same.
Also in their favour, is that they head to Wembley in hope rather than expectation and so will be playing without fear or pressure. No one is expecting Watford to go out and win the game in the same way no-one expected them to reach the final in the first place, so this game is very much a ‘free hit’ for them.
Let’s not forget either, this is a good Watford side – one that spent most of the season in the top half of the Premier League and whose foot only came off the pedal slightly when the FA Cup Final hovered into view. Along the way they picked up wins over top-four Tottenham, West Ham and Leicester, but it must be said they generally fared badly against the top-six.
On their way to the final, they have encountered three Premier League sides – Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Wolves – and all were dispatched by Gracia’s brand of high energy, hi-tempo football.
“Guardiola is a master of maintaining the hunger in his squad and there will be no let-up just because they already won two major trophies this season
In terms of team news, both head into the match with almost fully fit squads, with the only major doubt being City’s Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho, who missed the last three games of the season through a knee injury.
Gracia’s game plan will no doubt be around stopping City’s flow but on a more fundamental level, they simply have to contain City’s goal threat, which is an almost impossible task.
Their goal threats are numerous but in Sergio Aguero they have a striker who comes guaranteed with goals, scoring 32 goals in all competitions already this season. He thrives on the big occasion but at 67/1001.67-1490.67-1.490.67 as anytime goalscorer, he offers no value to the punter.
For City, the value here has to be with Bernardo Silva, who has finished the season in great form and has looked full of goals. In City’s last five games he’s had no less than 18 shots and so at 11/53.20+2202.202.20-0.45 he looks well worth a modest wager.
For Watford, only Spanish winger Gerard Deulofeu made double figures, but he really is bang in form and ended the season with seven goals in his last 11 Premier League games. He was also the Hornet’s two-goal hero in their 3-2 semi-final win over Wolves. At 9/25.50+4504.504.50-0.22 as an anytime goalscorer, he offers even better value than Silva.
In terms of head-to-heads, City hold the upper hand, particularly of late where they have won the last ten matches between the two sides, including a 3-1 win at the Etihad back in March.
So, a very tough afternoon awaits Gracia’s men and the stats on offer provide them with little comfort. What they must cling onto, however, is that cup football by its very nature is unpredictable, with cup finals themselves being no exception – as evidenced by Wigan six seasons ago.
Gracia is renowned for his tactical acumen and will have a plan but the big question is, will his players be good enough to implement it?
We happen to think City’s exhausting season may have something of an impact on the afternoon and it won’t be the stroll in the park that some are predicting. But, it is hard to make a case for a Watford win.
If anyone is going to score for the Hornets, it’s Deulofeu and even more inviting than ‘anytime’ is him as first goalscorer at 16/117.00+160016.0016.00-0.06, (bet365), which, given how City conceded first at Brighton at the weekend is possible. But City should have enough quality to see it through and we’re going for the 3-1, on offer with bet365at 10/111.00+100010.0010.00-0.10.
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Carl is the original ‘Special One’ and uses his statistical knowledge of football to gain the upper hand over the bookies on a weekly basis. A student of odds and probabilities, ‘Wrighty’ pinpoints the value bets in the top leagues across Europe. A big signing for the SBO.net sports team, Carl brings his vast experience of playing the odds and beating the bookies to a weekly column highlighting the very best football bets.
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