11 May 2013

2013 FA Cup Final preview

Sergio Aguero will be Manchester City's main man in attack once again.

The 132nd FA Cup Final is an all-Greater Manchester affair, as the Goliaths of mega-rich Manchester City take on the Davids of plucky Wigan Athletic.

More than half a billion people worldwide are expected to watch the match, which kicks off at Wembley Stadium at the untraditional time of 5:15pm. From Beijing to Buenos Aires, they'll be tuning in to find out who will win. All that we know for sure is that a manager called Roberto M will be celebrating at the final whistle.

The hot favourites to come out on top are Manchester City, who are in their tenth Final and chasing their sixth win. Roberto Mancini's first major trophy as Citizens manager came at Wembley in 2011, when his team beat another first-time finalist, Stoke City, to lift the FA Cup.

The hero of that hour was Yaya Touré, and the midfielder is fit to play this evening after missing the midweek game against West Bromwich Albion due to fatigue. However, Scott Sinclair - who has hardly been seen since his summer transfer from Swansea City - will not feature due to a blood clot.

City will turn to Romanian giant Costel Pantilimon in goal, selecting him ahead of first-choice keeper Joe Hart throughout their FA Cup run. He has been impressive during that run, not conceding a goal until the Semi Final against Chelsea. This will almost certainly be Pantilimon's last game for the club, as he wants regular first-team football next season.

It could also be Mancini's last hurrah with the Eastlands club if reports linking Malaga head coach Manuel Pellegrini with his job are to be believed.

Aside from Sinclair, Manchester City have no injuries to be concerned about, and their deadly up-front trio of David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri are all set to start.

It's a big day for Wigan Athletic's likeable manager Roberto Martinez.

Wigan Athletic were only formed in 1932, by which time today's opponents had already reached two FA Cup Finals and won one of them. This is Wigan's first time in this most special of footballing occasions, although they did reach the 2006 League Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium.

Today marks the fulfillment of a 53-year dream for chairman Dave Whelan, who broke his leg in the 1960 Final and returns there for the first time since. The injury, suffered whilst playing for Blackburn Rovers against Wolverhampton Wanderers, effectively ended Whelan's playing days. He then built up a successful business, bought his local club Wigan in 1995, and in less than two decades, he has taken them from the bottom end of Division 3 to the FA Cup Final, and with it UEFA Europa League qualification.

Manager Roberto Martinez faces a tough task if he is to take the Latics that one step further. He is already without three defenders - Maynor Figueroa, Ivan Ramis and Ronnie Stam - through injury, and is set to lose a fourth in Antolin Alcaraz. To make things worse, winger Jean Beausejour could also be ruled out.

Fortunately, Martinez can still call upon Arouna Koné. The Ivorian striker has been one of the Spanish boss's better signings this season, and he'll have to be on form to end Wigan's run of having not scored in their last seven games against Manchester City.

Just like City, Wigan will play their second-choice goalkeeper in this evening's showpiece. Ali Al-Habsi was number 1 for a couple of years until Joel Robles arrived on loan in January, but the Oman international continues to feature in the cups.

The FA Cup has not had a new name engraved on it since Wimbledon in 1988, and Wigan will have to play the game of their lives this evening if they are to alter that fact. City, though, will we desperate to end what they now consider to be a disappointing season with their third trophy in as many campaigns.

Although Wigan cannot be discounted, it's very likely that Manchester City could run away with this Final, and The Daily Transfer Request fears that will be the case.

TDTR PREDICTS: Manchester City 3-0 Wigan Athletic

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