Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
On Saturday, Manchester City and Watford meet at Wembley Stadium to contest the 138th FA Cup Final in what promises to be a fascinating top-flight tussle in London.
With this season’s Premier League title and Carabao Cup already in the bag, the Citizens’ have a unique opportunity to become the first English team to win a domestic treble this weekend.
However, the Hornets have shown enough sting this season to suggest that Saturday’s Final won’t be a procession for Guardiola’s men, and Watford will be quietly confident that they can cause a Wembley upset.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most important individual duels that could play a key role in deciding the outcome of Saturday’s FA Cup Final.
Read our comprehensive match preview for more Manchester City vs Watford predictions and 100% FREE betting tips now!
Etienne Capoue vs David Silva
Combative French midfielder Etienne Capoue has enjoyed a fine season for Watford in 2018/19, patrolling central areas with authority and aggression alongside his compatriot Abdoulaye Doucouré.
Capoue made more tackles (2.8) and interceptions (2.6) on average per Premier League appearances than any of his Hornets teammates this term, and the 30-year old will need every inch of his ball-recovery acumen to limit the influence of Manchester City’s David Silva.
With 9 goals and 10 assists already notched this season, the 33-year old Spanish schemer has been a major creative force in City’s midfield in 2018/19, and Silva has played more key passes per 90 minutes (2.2) than any other City player since August last year.
Silva laid on the pass for City’s 3rd and final goal against Watford in the Citizens’ 3-1 league win against the Hornets in March, and we think the expert defence splitter is a cracking price at 9/4 with bet365 to repeat the trick at Wembley on Saturday.
Troy Deeney vs Vincent Kompany
In a fascinating shoulder splintering, head splitting duel that pits brawn against brawn and captain against captain, Watford centre forward Troy Deeney comes up against Vincent Kompany in what could prove to be the City skipper’s last appearance in a sky-blue shirt.
Deeney struck a dramatic equalizing goal from the penalty spot for Watford in their thrilling FA Cup Semi Final comeback win over Wolves last month, and the talismanic frontman will be desperate to provide more heroics for his team on Saturday.
The 30-year old centre-forward relishes a physical battle – Deeney tops the charts at Watford for average aerial contests won per game (6.5) this season, and the striker ranks 3rd for fouls committed per 90 minutes (1.3).
Vincent Kompany’s campaign has been marked by injury and fitness problems, though the Belgian’s average clearances per game figure (3.2) is still the highest at the club and the 33-year old ranks joint 3rd for average aerial duels won (2.2) per Premier League fixture this season.
Kompany’s enthusiasm often spills over into recklessness however, and remarkably, the towering centre-half picked up 6 yellow cards in just 13 Premier League starts in 2018/19.
With his disciplinary record far from pristine, we think Kompany is priced incredibly generous at 10/3 with bet365 to be carded again on Saturday during his skirmish with Deeney.
Jose Holebas vs Raheem Sterling
The mere sight of Raheem Sterling is enough to get the Hornets’ defenders in a flap. The rapid City attacker rattled the net 5 times in his last 3 appearances against Watford – a sequence that included a sensational hattrick against them when the teams met in early March.
In total, Sterling has registered 23 goals across all competitions for City in 2018/19, and the 24-year old needs just to score just 1 more to set a new individual record for most goals scored in a single season.
One of the players tasked with stopping the free-scoring winger is Watford’s Greek fullback Jose Holebas. The 34-year old defender has had a productive campaign for the Hornets, scoring 3 times and collecting 6 assists for his club in the Premier League overall.
Holebas has however, drawn plenty of unwanted attention from referees for his penchant for a poorly-timed challenge. Holebas picked up 13 yellow cards in the Premier League this season, and the former Roma star was sent off against West Ham in the Hornets’ final fixture of the year on Sunday, though the red card was later overturned after a review.
Holebas’ availability for Saturday’s Final is a boost for Watford, though the veteran fullback won’t be relishing facing a rampant Raheem Sterling. The England international’s recent record against the Hornets is exemplary, and we think Sterling is priced brilliantly at 1/1 with bet365 to register anytime again this weekend.
Craig Cathcart vs Sergio Aguero
Northern Irish centre-half Craig Cathcart has the unenviable challenge of trying to knock Sergio Aguero off his goal-scoring stride on Saturday.
City’s Argentine centre-forward has regularly tormented Watford since first appearing against the Hornets in 2014.
Aguero rattled home a sensational hattrick that day in a 4-2 Citizens triumph, and City’s all-time leading scorer has scored 10 times against Watford in 7 matches against them overall.
The prolific 30-year old topped the scoring charts again for City in 2018/19, and his hefty 30-goal haul was helped by his equally prolific shooting statistics.
Aguero averaged 3.9 shots per game for City in his Premier and Champions League appearances this term, and we think there is an opportunity to take advantage of his incredibly high attempts figures this week.
Aguero is available at 4/7 with bet365 to register over 3.5 shots against Watford on Saturday, which is a cracking looking price.
Roberto Pereyra vs Ilkay Gundogan
With Fernandinho’s fitness still not at 100%, Ilkay Gundogan is the most likely candidate to anchor the Manchester City midfield in Saturday’s FA Cup Final.
The cool-headed metronomic possession recycler has hit the mark with an incredible 90.8% of his attempted passes for City this season, making him the most accurate distributer of the ball among the club’s midfielders in 2018/19.
Watford’s Roberto Pereyra will be deployed in the same area of the pitch as Gundogan, setting up a compelling face-off between two midfielders with highly contrasting styles of play.
Pereyra’s performances have been a little hit and miss over the past few months, though Watford fans be hopeful that the Argentine can turn it on against City in one of the biggest fixtures in the club’s history on Saturday.
Just like the rest of his Watford teammates, the versatile 28-year old will expect to see very little of the ball on Saturday, though that’s something that Pererya has generally been used to this season – the Argentinean played an average of just 34 passes per Premier League appearance for the Hornets in 2018/19.
Nevertheless, we think bet365’s 5/6 odds on Pereyra playing over 29.5 passes against City represent great value. Pereyra hit a pass total under that amount in only 8 of his 33 Premier League appearances this season, and though his time on the ball will be limited against the Citizens this weekend, he should see enough of it to pass that modest target.
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