Man City aims to end long trophy drought

Four days after qualifying for the Champions League for the first time, Manchester City can give its success-starved fans more reason to cheer by beating Stoke in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday to end a 35-year trophy drought.

Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini

LONDON — Four days after qualifying for the Champions League for the first time, Manchester City can give its success-starved fans more reason to cheer by beating Stoke in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday to end a 35-year trophy drought.

An investment of more than $1 billion (C$1.6 billion) on players since the 2008 takeover of Man City by Abu Dhabi businessman Sheikh Mansour is starting to pay dividends, with the northwest side securing a first top-four finish in the Premier League by defeating Tottenham 1-0 on Tuesday.

Standing in the way of the team’s first trophy since 1976 is mid-table Premier League rival Stoke, the second oldest club in England which is in prime form heading into its first FA Cup final.

“Saturday will be a very, very hard game,” City manager Roberto Mancini said. “Stoke are a difficult team and it is important that we recover very well in the next two days.

“If we think it will be an easy game, that will be a big mistake. If we concentrate, maybe we can win.”

Stoke, whose famous players down the years have included former England stars Stanley Matthews and Gordon Banks, has won only one trophy in its 148-year history — the League Cup in 1972 following a 2-1 victory over Chelsea.

But the team nicknamed the Potters has established itself as a topflight club since gaining promotion in 2008. Its physical and direct approach has earned the side few plaudits but makes it tough to beat, going into the final on a five-match unbeaten run that includes a 3-1 win over Arsenal on Sunday.

“If you had said to me at the beginning of the season we would be in the final, I would be doing somersaults. We will just make sure we enjoy it,” Stoke manager Tony Pulis said.

City heads to Wembley as the clear favourite, armed with a star-studded squad including players like Argentina striker Carlos Tevez, Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure and Spain winger David Silva.

This season’s squad is stronger in depth than in previous years, allowing Mancini to rotate players throughout the campaign to help the team compete on more fronts.

City reached the last 16 of the Europa League before being eliminated by Dynamo Kyiv, but has qualified for the Champions League with two matches to spare in the Premier League. A first trophy since a League Cup victory over Newcastle in 1976 now rests with the FA Cup.

“Last year we lost in the semifinal of the League Cup against Manchester United; this year, we played them in the semifinal of the FA Cup and beat them,” centre back Vincent Kompany said. “It was the same with Tottenham and the top four.

“It is going forward for us. We can build on it for next season and challenge for the (Premier League) title.”

Tevez, the team’s attacking inspiration, had been in doubt ahead of the match after a hamstring injury caused him to miss the last month. He returned against Spurs as a late second-half substitute, but may still struggle to make the starting lineup on Saturday.

“I don’t think Carlos can be ready 100 per cent because he played 15 minutes and did only one week’s training with the team,” Mancini said.

If Tevez doesn’t start, Mancini will have to decide between Italy forward Mario Balotelli and Bosnia striker Edin Dzeko, who joined for 27 million pounds (C$42.4 million) in January, to lead the line at the weekend.

Stoke was once accused by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger of playing like a rugby team because of its physicality, but the team has mixed long-ball tactics with some neat passing and spectacular long-range goals in recent games.

Stoke defeated Bolton 5-0 in the semifinal at Wembley in a thoroughly impressive display that will have made some pundits eat their words.

“You would not of dreamed of it a few years ago — Stoke in an FA Cup final, perhaps finishing in the top 10 of the Premier League and being in Europe. It is a bit special,” Pulis said.

With City sealing a top-four place, Stoke is now assured of a place in next season’s Europa League, whatever the result on Saturday.

Winger Matthew Etherington (hamstring) and former Germany defender Robert Huth (knee) are injury doubts for Stoke. The Potters feature former Canadian under-20 goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who now plays internationally for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Red Deer jumps to 449 active COVID-19 cases on Sunday

1,516 new cases identified in Alberta

The QEII was closed Sunday morning due to a pole fire. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
UPDATE: QEII near Red Deer reopens

The QEII has been reopened after being closed due to a pole… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

San Jose's Tomas Hertl, center, celebrates with teammates Patrick Marleau, left, and Rudolfs Blacers, right, after Hertl scored a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Friday, April 16, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s games record

For Patrick Marleau, the best part about Monday night when he is… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

WASHINGTON — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at… Continue reading

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Federal government to send health-care workers to Ontario, Trudeau says

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says federal departments and some Canadian… Continue reading

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

Most Read