The FA Cup Final: Match Preview

Scott Heavey

Few would have believed it, and some still can’t but with 24 hours to go, Wigan are closing in on the biggest day in our 81 year history. Our run to the final has been a lenient one; only facing one Premier League side so far has helped. But that was against an Everton side that we swept away. Can we do it again?

Manchester City though will face a much tougher test than Everton. Now offence to the Toffees who have managed to beat City this season and did it in a very controlled manner. You just feel on our day we could beat Everton (as we did) but can we beat Manchester City?

Before their rise to footballing power in recent years, the games against Manchester City use to be open free scoring affairs for both teams, and usually Wigan would come out on top. In the past two seasons, we have failed to beat them.

Will it be another defeat this weekend? Is anyone backing us?

Well the answer is a resounding, no. The bookies of course have the 2011 winners as the odds on favourites. So we Latics return to our position as the underdogs, and let’s be honest we love being the underdogs. Since we took our first tiny steps in the Premier League we have always been the favourites to go down year after year.

As of this time, we remain a Premier League club (by the thinnest of threads at the moment I admit).

So why not battle against the odds this time? Had we a full squad with everyone fit, then you could wonder and maybe even full heartedly state we can do this. But there is that sort of who cares attitude to this game; we are missing at least three defenders for this game with Ivan Ramis, Maynor Figueroa and Ronnie Stam defiant outs. Antolin Alcaraz and Adrian Lopez are sitting on the fence and you wonder if they could be risked and returned to the team.

Gary Caldwell showed against Swansea that he isn’t ready, nowhere near in fact. Whether he had lost his edge or isn’t 100% fit we can’t tell, but he shouldn’t face Manchester City.

Roberto Martinez has to stick to what he and the team know. Our trademark 3-4-3 set up would be the ideal way to give Manchester City a run for their money. A back three compromising of whichever three centre backs are fit; wingbacks that will run and run and run up and down the pitch will be required; two central midfielders with a never say die attitude; and three forward with enough guile and skill between them to work some chances. We have these players, so why not use them?

Whoever turns out for Wigan will face a full strength Manchester City side. Roberto Mancini has to go for broke in this game. With nothing else to play for, they will want to get their third trophy in three years and keep the momentum of success going.

With no major injury concerns it will be a team dripping with pace and skill, yet a back line of steel which can hold out some of the best strikers in the world. Recently though their level of performances haven’t been to the highest standard.

Does that indicate that they will burst forth at Wembley? Or continue to shy away? With the big occasion and the chance of a winner’s medal, which player won’t be trying his hardest? All of them will want to win no matter what. That of course also works in our favour as well when it comes to cup matches and especially finals the rulebook should always be thrown out the window.

It could be Wigan who shy away and Manchester City who take centre stage. The balance of such games always hinges on the first ten minutes and the team to score first. You would like to hope that the Latics players will come out all guns blazing, but if there is one thing we have learnt most in recent years, it’s that it’s not always the best team that wins, but the one that scores.

In a week where Sir Alex Ferguson announces his retirement from the game, why cannot another major shock in football occur? Wigan Athletic winning the FA Cup would certainly be a shock, and against Manchester City and either bigger one.

With the shackles thrown free, and the players told to give it their all on the biggest stage in world football cup competitions. Then maybe, just maybe, we can do it.

Keep the Faith!

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