It’s a confusing time for ‘neutral’ supporters. Having rooted for Manchester City all season in the hope they’d stop Liverpool from winning the league, they now have to switch allegiance against City in favour of Watford. Football is confusing, isn’t it?
Truth is, if it’s glory they’re so desperate to cling onto, they should stick with the champions.
That makes Javi Gracia’s boys longer odds than Wigan were in 2013, when Roberto Martinez managed the Latics to a remarkable cup victory and relegation. Still, the underdogs should at least provide City with a sterner test than they’ve faced in the tournament so far.
Watford are the biggest-priced FA Cup finalist since Pompey took on Chelsea in 2009/10. The south coast Blues may have lost to their west London rivals that day, but it was only 1-0. However, it’s hard to make a case Saturday’s showcase will be close.
The Hornets may have lost the last three meetings by no more than two goals, but they’ve also been battered 5-0 and 6-0 by Pep’s boys since the Spaniard took charge of City. The last time Watford beat them in a top flight or cup game, Tim Sherwood started. Ask your dad, kids. Actually, don’t.
If Gracia’s gang were facing any team from outside the top six, you’d back them. Watford topped the mini-league of the bottom 14 sides, with 47 points.
Turns out, believe it or not, City are better than dross like Huddersfield or Everton. And while Watford’s first league match against one of the big six this season saw them beat Tottenham 2-1, they subsequently lost the following 11 with six goals scored and a whopping 27 conceded.
There’s no value in betting on City to win, at 1/6, so take a handicap bet and set it where you feel confident.
Best bet: Man City -1 at 4/7 or Man City -2 at 17/10.
Despite the odds being undoubtedly stacked against Watford, we can’t rule out them getting on the score sheet at Wembley. They’ve scored in their last three meetings with the Citizens, and they have an area of strength which is perhaps one of the few weaknesses the champions have: Set pieces.
In the 14 consecutive league games City won to clinch the title, they only conceded four goals. But all four of them – including one by Watford – came from set piece situations. And Pep won’t need reminding that Fernando Llorente’s decisive goal in the Champions League was from a corner too.
Of the 19 non-penalty league goals City conceded this season, 10 were in open play and nine were from dead ball situations. Add in that Watford scored one more set piece goal this season than their opponents on Saturday did, and it may prove to be their route to avoid ending with nil.
These sides were ranked joint-second and fourth in the division for games which featured at least three goals too, so we can expect to be entertained.
Best bet: Man City and both teams to score at 9/5
Best bet: Over 2.5 goals at 9/20.
With that in mind, perhaps Watford’s Craig Cathcart – who scored two goals from set-pieces against Spurs this season – wouldn’t be the worst long shot scorer bet, at 20/1.
But the Hornets’ best chance may lay with Gerard Deulofeu. The former Barcelona man has scored six goals in his last 10 appearances, a run which includes two goals at Wembley in the semi-final and one in Watford’s last match against City.
Best bet: Gerard Deulofeu to score any time at 5/1.
Raheem Sterling bagged a hat trick when theses side last clashed – he’s 25/1 to do so here – so is he the man to back on the City side of the scorer market?
It’s not a terrible idea, but with four goals in his last 10 appearances, the England international isn’t in the red-hot form he was earlier in the season.
Sergio Aguero is the go-to man when betting on City, and with good reason here: he’s scored seven in 10 games against Watford across his career, including an FA Cup hat-trick in 2014.
He might not get three, but Aguero should set the ball rolling on a routine win for City.
Best bet: Sergio Aguero to score first at 13/5.
*All odds correct at time of posting.