FA Cup


FA Cup Preview: Middlesbrough v Hull City

Hull City will be wary of a potential banana skin in their FA Cup third-round tie against a resurgent Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Steve Bruce’s charges have prospered after returning to the Premier League, collecting 23 points from 20 matches to sit 10th in the table.

However, Hull can expect a stern challenge from a Middlesbrough side who have looked revitalised in the last month under Aitor Karanka.

The former Real Madrid assistant manager took the reins at the Riverside Stadium in November, after Tony Mowbray had paid the price for a poor run of results in 2013.

Middlesbrough head into this weekend’s game unbeaten in four league games, having won three in a row prior to surrendering a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw with Bolton Wanderers on New Year’s Day.

Although Karanka’s men sit 15th in the Championship, they are only six points adrift of the play-off positions.

Neither Middlesbrough or Hull have won the FA Cup, although the former reached the final in 1997 before suffering a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea.

Hull make the journey to Middlesbrough having won just one of their last seven league matches.

Yet that victory proved a hugely convincing one as Fulham were thumped 6-0 at the KC Stadium last weekend.

Bruce was keen to rest players for the 2-0 defeat at Liverpool on New Year’s Day, which capped a hectic end-of-year schedule, but acknowledges he simply does not have the necessary depth in his squad.

“You ask yourself whether you could have freshened it up and made five or six changes but we’ve not got that luxury yet,” he said.

“We can’t afford to do it. Overall, the squad and their attitude is great.”

Middlesbrough and Hull last met in the FA Cup seven years ago, also at the third-round stage.

After a 1-1 draw at the KC Stadium, Middlesbrough progressed courtesy of a 4-3 triumph in the resulting replay.

Thu 2 January, 2014
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Cardiff appoint Solskjaer

Cardiff City have confirmed the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as their new manager.

Solskjaer takes over at the Welsh club from Malky Mackay, who was sacked by controversial owner Vincent Tan last month following weeks of speculation.

David Kerslake has taken charge of Cardiff’s two Premier League games since Mackay’s dismissal, guiding them to a 2-2 draw with Sunderland and a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal.

However, former Manchester United striker Solskjaer will now take the reins for Cardiff’s FA Cup tie at Newcastle United on Saturday.

The 40-year-old made his first steps into management at Norwegian side Molde, taking over in 2011 and leading them to two Norwegian Tippeligaen titles and a Norwegian Cup crown.

And he will now attempt to continue that success with the Welsh capital club by ensuring they retain their Premier League status.

Although a key factor in Mackay’s dismissal was Tan’s dismay at his pre-season spending, Solskjaer will reportedly have considerable funds to deal with in the January window.

Thu 2 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Norwich City v Fulham

Norwich City will have to alter recent history to progress from the third round of the FA Cup against Fulham on Saturday.

The Norfolk club have not recorded a victory over the Craven Cottage outfit since March 1986, a 2-1 league success.

The two sides have met on 13 occasions in all competitions since then, with Fulham winning 10 of those encounters.

The last of those Fulham victories came on Boxing Day when Rene Meulensteen’s men recorded a crucial three points in their fight against Premier League relegation as strikes from Pajtim Kasami and Scott Parker wiped out Gary Hooper’s opener.

Meulensteen’s side head into Saturday’s showdown at Carrow Road on the back of a morale-boosting 2-1 victory over fellow strugglers West Ham on New Year’s Day.

After falling behind to Mohamed Diame’s strike, the hosts bounced back courtesy of goals from Steve Sidwell and Dimitar Berbatov as Fulham showed great spirit in response to the humiliating 6-0 defeat at Hull City last weekend.

Fulham’s best FA Cup run came when the London club reached the 1975 final, where they lost 2-0 to West Ham, while they have failed to progress past the fourth round in the past two seasons, with a 4-1 loss to Manchester United ending their hopes last year.

Norwich’s recent history in the competition has not been favourable. City have failed to go beyond the fifth round since losing 1-0 to Sunderland at the semi-final stage in 1992 and suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to non-league Luton Town in round four in 2013.

Chris Hughton’s men have endured a blip in the last month and have failed to record a victory in their last five matches, drawing three and losing twice.

A 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace on Wednesday saw Jason Puncheon’s penalty cancel out Bradley Johnson’s opener.

Norwich will be without midfielder Leroy Fer as he serves a one-match suspension after receiving two yellow cards against Palace, while there are fitness doubts over centre-back Michael Turner (hamstring) and midfielder Jonny Howson (back).

Fulham have no fresh injury worries with goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg (ankle) and defender Brede Hangeland (leg) set to miss out.

Thu 2 January, 2014
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Former winners enter FA Cup first round

Former FA Cup winners Wolves, Coventry City and Portsmouth were given away fixtures in the first round draw on Sunday.

Forty ties will take place as team start to dream of success in the competition won by Wigan Athletic last season.

Three-time winners Wolves enter the first round for the first time since 1991-92 following their relegation to League One last season. They will travel to Boundary Park for a clash with Oldham Athletic.

The two sides faced each other in the league earlier this month, Kenny Jackett’s side coming out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from James Henry and Leigh Griffiths.

Coventry lifted the trophy in 1987 and will begin their campaign with a trip to League Two side AFC Wimbledon.

Portsmouth are the most recent winners to participate at this stage having been triumphant in 2008, and Guy Whittingham’s side will play Stevenage.

There will be an all-Lincolnshire derby at Blundell Park when Grimsby entertain Scunthorpe, while Nigel Clough’s Sheffield United face fellow League One team Colchester United.

Daventry are the lowest placed side definitely in the first round after their victory over Hartley Wintney in the fourth qualifying round. The Southern League Division One Central side have been drawn against League Two high-fliers Chesterfield.

They could be joined by Shortwood United of the Southern League Division One South and West league, who have a replay with Aldershot.

A 1-1 draw on Saturday meant Shortwood and Aldershot were in the draw and the winners will host Port Vale in the first round.

Conference South side Bishop’s Stortford’s reward for beating Forest Green Rovers was a tie with Northampton Town, while there will be an all-Southern League Premier Division clash when Biggleswade Town face Stourbridge.

FA Cup first round draw: Morecambe v Southend United, Walsall v Shrewsbury Town, Boreham Wood v Carlisle United, St Albans City v Mansfield Town, MK Dons v FC Halifax Town, Bristol Rovers v York City, Tamworth v Cheltenham Town, Grimsby Town v Scunthorpe United, Bury v Cambridge United, Corby Town v Dover Athletic, Colchester United v Sheffield United, Oxford United v Gateshead, Hartlepool United v Notts County, Chesterfield v Daventry Town, Bristol City v Dagenham & Redbridge, AFC Wimbledon v Coventry City, Preston North End v Barnet, Bishop’s Stortford v Northampton Town, Burton Albion v Hereford United, Rotherham United v Bradford City, Gillingham v Brackley Town or Barrow, Salisbury City v Ebbsfleet United or Dartford, Accrington Stanley v Tranmere Rovers, Brentford v Staines Town or Poole Town, Stevenage v Portsmouth, Shortwood United or Aldershot Town v Port Vale, Leyton Orient v Southport, Peterborough United v Exeter City, Torquay United v Rochdale, Braintree Town v Newport County, Oldham Athletic v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Worcester City or Lincoln City v Plymouth Argyle, Bradford Park Avenue or Kidderminster Harriers v Hemel Hempstead or Sutton United, Hednesford Town v Crawley Town, Stourbridge v Biggleswade Town, Welling United v Luton Town, Macclesfield Town v Swindon Town, Wycombe Wanderers v Crewe Alexandra, Gloucester City v Fleetwood Town, Wrexham v Alfreton Town.

Sun 27 October, 2013
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Capital One Cup Preview: Manchester United v. Liverpool

Manchester United will host bitter rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford in Round 3 of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday, September 25.

Manchester United will host bitter rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford in Round 3 of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday, September 25.

United and Liverpool are coming off agonizing defeats to Manchester City and Southampton, respectively, with both clubs desperate to redeem themselves in midweek.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Manchester derby, Wayne Rooney told reporters: “City have had their success recently, but I would probably say that United and Liverpool is still the biggest game.

“They’re all big games, but obviously United and Liverpool has been a massive game over the years. I’d say it’s still the biggest game.”

After a 4-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium, Rooney and co. must bounce back in a big way against the Merseysiders on Wednesday.

Team News

For Liverpool, Luis Suárez is availabe for selection after serving a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic last season, while Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho has been ruled out for at least a month with a shoulder injury.

On the other side of the touchline, Phil Jones (ankle) and Rafael da Silva (hamstring) could return for the hosts. Star man Robin van Persie is doubtful due to a groin strain that kept him out of the derby match against City on Sunday.

Manager Quotes

When asked if he would start Luis Suárez at Old Trafford, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers said: “It will be something to consider. I won’t say [strikers] miss it more, but they miss it in a different way. Suarez loves the game and if he doesn’t play the game, it kills him.

“The integral part of it all is the game. That’s what he is. And if you put him in that environment where he’s smelling the smelling salts and the changing room, it can be counterproductive, so we’re going to keep him out of the way.”

Luis Suárez is 6/1 to score first on Wednesday night.

Match Facts

United are 6-1-3 in their last 10 matches against Liverpool in all competitions, including a 1-0 defeat to the Merseysiders at Anfield earlier this month.

Daniel Sturridge has scored three goals in his last four appearances against Manchester United. Subsequently, the England international is 11/4 to score anytime against the Red Devils in midweek.

Mexico international striker Javier “El Chicharito” Hernández has bagged two goals and one assist in five League Cup appearances for United since the start of 2010/11.

Betting Odds

Manchester United (21/20); Liverpool (5/2); Draw (5/2)

Match Prediction

Manchester United 2 – Liverpool 0 (10/1)

Sun 22 September, 2013
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Kone happy to be reunited with Martinez

New Everton signing Arouna Kone is looking forward to playing for manager Roberto Martinez again at Goodison Park.

The Ivorian forward followed the Spaniard from Wigan to Everton on Monday for a reported fee of £6.5 million, signing a three-year deal.

Kone moved to Wigan from Levante last year and scored 13 goals in 38 appearances in his first season of English football, but it was not enough to stop the club dropping into the Championship.

“I feel delighted. I’m really happy about joining this team,” he said.

“For me it is the fruition of work that has been going on for a month now. I’m really pleased to be here and I hope that everything goes well and I can have a great season for the club, just like I did last year with Wigan.

“It’s an honour to be back working with the manager once again. Last season he really helped me a lot.

“For my first season I did the absolute best I could, but I think that joining up with him (Martinez) at this club is like another dimension for me and I hope that I’m going to continue to improve alongside him.

“We’ll keep working hard to try and help the club achieve all of its goals.”

A major goal for Everton in the upcoming season will be winning a first major trophy since their 1995 FA Cup success.

Kone helped Wigan to victory in the same competition earlier this year, scoring two goals in the lead-up to the final, in which they beat Manchester City.

And he is confident about Everton’s hopes this season, and his ability to fire the Merseyside club to silverware.

“I’m really eager to do my best to try and win something again this season,” Kone said.

“I really believe in this team and I think we will have a great campaign next season. I can’t wait to make my debut for this club.

“I think that with the quality of squad Everton has, we will have a good season. I hope to score as many goals as I can next season.”

Tue 9 July, 2013
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Akinfenwa impressed by Gillingham ambition

Adebayo Akinfenwa has revealed that the ambition of Gillingham convinced him to rejoin the club.

Akinfenwa signed for the League One side for a second time on a free transfer from Northampton earlier in the month.

The 31-year-old played 45 minutes in Martin Allen’s side’s 3-0 pre-season opener over non-league Bromley, and admitted that the progress the club has made was a key factor in his decision.

“It’s moved on – I knew that from speaking to the gaffer, it’s always been an ambitious club but its being put in to actions now.

“The players are a very good standard and the gaffer is meticulous in everything he does so it looks like its moving in the direction it wants to go.

“I kept an eye on it and enjoyed my time immensely the first time around so it was an easy decision to come back and you always keep an eye on places that you leave where you enjoyed.

“It’s a squad game and I know what I can bring to the team and as long as I’m putting in my performances and helping the youngsters on I’ll be happy with that.”

Sun 7 July, 2013
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Jarvis wants silverware at West Ham

West Ham United midfielder Matt Jarvis has revealed that Wigan’s FA Cup win has inspired them to seek their own silverware.

The Premier League club returned to the top flight last season and finished in 10th place, but have not secured any trophies since 1999 when they picked up the Intertoto Cup.

And Jarvis, who arrived at Upton Park from Wolves in 2012, has insisted that Wigan’s surprise victory last year has whet his desire for glory.

“What Wigan did in beating Manchester City to lift the FA Cup has made clubs like us realise it can be done now – that trophies are not the preserve of the so-called big boys,” he said.

“Our first aim will be to go on a winning spree in the Premier League so that when the cup competitions come around, we’ll be able to hit the ground running.

“We have ambitious players here. There isn’t one of us who does not want to win a trophy.”

The East London club will be buoyed in their pursuit of success by the addition of England international Andy Carroll, who made his loan deal from Liverpool permanent last month.

Sun 7 July, 2013
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Chesterfield rave over Roberts signing

Gary Roberts has been hailed as the Football League’s best left winger after joining Chesterfield on Saturday.

The 29-year-old has signed a three-year deal with the League Two club following his release by Swindon after one season at the County Ground.

Roberts has amassed over 300 appearances during spells with clubs such as Huddersfield and Accrington, playing alongside Chesterfield manager Paul Cook at the latter.

Chesterfield chief executive Chris Turner believes the signing of Roberts represents a coup for a club hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of narrowly missing out on a play-off place last season.

Turner told the club’s official website: “Gary is a quality signing – I don’t think there’s anybody outside the Premiership who’s better on the left wing.

“The left-hand side has been unbalanced for a long time and the addition of Gary will further strengthen the firepower as he creates and scores goals.

“Paul Cook has patiently waited for the deal to be done as he was very keen to bring Gary in. Chairman Dave Allen has provided some great support to ensure the conclusion of the deal.”

Sat 22 June, 2013
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FA Cup final given end-of-season billing

The FA Cup final will be restored as the closing fixture of the English domestic league season next term.

The showpiece match will take place at Wembley on May 17, one week after the climax of the Premier League season.

It marks a return to tradition for the world’s oldest knockoput competition and will be the first time since 2010 that the cup final has taken the end-of-season slot.

The 2013 final took place when eventual winners Wigan still had two league games to play and despite securing their first major piece of silverware with a shock victory over Manchester City, the club went on to be relegated.

Manchester City’s cup triumph in 2011, when they beat Stoke City 1-0, was overshadowed somewhat by their bitter rivals Manchester United having secured their record-breaking 19th top-flight title with a 1-1 draw against Blackburn Rovers earlier that day.

The FA Cup first took place in 1871-72 and the most recent edition of the competition involved 758 clubs.

Wed 19 June, 2013
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Roberto Martinez finally appointed as Everton boss

Roberto Martinez is the new Everton boss

Roberto Martinez has been appointed as the new Everton boss

Just like Jose Mourinho returning to Chelsea, Roberto Martinez arriving at Everton was a secret that nobody seemed to be able to keep.

Ever since Martinez told Wigan that he was leaving it was almost inevitable that he would be the next Everton boss.

Four-year contract

The Spaniard signed a four-year contract with the Toffee’s earlier today to succeed David Moyes as Everton boss.

Martinez has left Wigan after four years in charge at the DW Stadium, where he spent most of his time attempting to keep the Latics in the top flight.

This season Martinez’s team were relegated, but claimed a surprise 1-0 FA Cup final triumph against Manchester City.

It is hard to judge whether Martinez was a success at Wigan or not considering their contrasting fortunes last season.

Split

Everton Chairman Bill Kenwright said he would listen to the fans on the appointment of the clubs new boss. However, the appointment of Roberto Martinez has split opinion amongst the Evertonian’s.

Many Everton fans were in favour of the club appointing Porto boss Vitor Pereira, who has claimed consecutive league titles in his homeland. However, it seems that after interviewing a number of candidates Kenwright, including Pereira, decided that Martinez was the best candidate for the job.

Martinez’s appointment has been met by negativity from a host of Evertonian’s, but the doubters need to give the Spaniard a chance to prove himself. Some fans are already writing Martinez off and he has only just been appointed.

Wigan’s relegation and a poor win ratio in Lancashire have persuaded some Everton fans that Martinez is not the right man to move the club forward.

Highly-rated

Despite Wigan’s relegation, Roberto Martinez is regarded as one of the most highly-rated young bosses in the English game. He is thought of as one of the more forward thinking bosses in Europe, one of the games thinkers.

Style

One of the reasons that Martinez is considered so highly-rated is his philosophy on football. The 39-year-old has stuck with his passing style of football throughout his short career as a boss, even when the situation looked desperate for Wigan at times.

Unfortunately, Wigan was relegated while playing football last season. Martinez was very unlucky in the fact that he had a host of injuries to key defenders last season, which was a massive contributing factor to the Latics being relegated.

Wigan under Martinez conceded far more goals than Everton did under David Moyes in the last four years. The Toffee’s under Moyes were hard to beat and ironically, their style of play only improved towards the end of the Scot’s reign.

The number of goals that Wigan conceded under Martinez is a major concern for Everton fans. However, Everton have far superior defenders to Wigan. The backline of Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and Seamus Coleman is a very solid one.

The quarter is not all of a sudden going to become bad players just because Martinez has come in as manager. A change of formation may take some time for the Everton players to become accustomed to, but the Toffees players are intelligent enough to adapt.

Transfer market

Roberto Martinez has done some sterling work in the transfer market at Wigan, working on a shoestring budget, which will prepare him for Everton. The Spaniard will have to do the job on a small budget, although the Everton wage budget will be slightly higher than Wigan’s.

While at the Wigan, Martinez brought in the likes of Arouna Kone, James McCarthy and Shaun Maloney, who have all been big successes at the DW Stadium. All three are already being linked with a move to Goodison Park this summer.

Martinez has brought in lots of money from sales of players and instead of depending on money injected by Latics Chairman Dave Whelan the club became more self-sufficient. Martinez will have to be similarly shrewd in the transfer market on Merseyside.

Expectations

As Martinez stated in his press conference yesterday he has inherited a very good team and the fans have big expectations. The Spaniard needs to get off to a good start on Merseyside and if he does then I am sure the doubters will disappear into the background.

Can Roberto Martinez help Everton progress?

Thu 6 June, 2013
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Wigan goes from ecstasy to despair in just three days

Wigan were relegated from the Premier League last night, after a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal, but will boss Roberto Martinez remain with the Latics this summer?

Wigan were relegated from the Premier League last night, after a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal, but will boss Roberto Martinez remain with the Latics this summer?

Wigan Athletic suffered a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal last night and suffered relegation for the first time in the clubs history.

The disappointment comes just three days after the Latics celebrated a famous 1-0 FA Cup final victory over Manchester City at Wembley.

Too far

The Latics have survived the drop for the last couple of seasons, despite boss Roberto Martinez working on a shoestring budget and at times selling his best players. This season was a relegation battle too far.

Athletic were the only club in the Premier League to have never suffered a relegation, that has now changed thanks too last night’s defeat. The Latics put up a decent fight, but in the end, Arsenal’s class shone through.

Style

It really is a shame that the Premier League is losing such an attractive team to watch and a manager that always seems positive in his approach to the game. Although, the Spaniard could move on this summer, more on that later.

The Latics tried to play an expansive brand of football. Their forward line is a threat to every defence in the top flight, with attacking trio Shaun Maloney, Callum McManaman and Arouna Kone vital to their game play.

Poor

Wigan’s problems lie in defence and have done for a few seasons. Individual mistakes and poor defending have meant that for the last few seasons the Lancashire club have struggled against the drop.

Last night was the perfect example of the leaky nature of the Wigan defence. Their poor defending has finally cost the Latics their top-flight status.

Popular

Wigan seems to have become very popular in the last few days since their FA Cup final victory over Manchester City. They were the ultimate underdogs and deserved to defeat the former-champions. The victory was by no means a fluke either, as Wigan were the better team on the day.

Unfortunately, the last three games have summed up Wigan in the last few seasons, sometimes fantastic and sometimes calamitous. They enjoyed more of the latter than the former though this season.

Highly-rated

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez is highly rated and is the current favourite to take over from David Moyes at Everton. Martinez’s tactical nous has been lauded at times during his tenure at the DW Stadium, despite his side struggling against relegation in the last few years.

Martinez has attracted the interest of bigger clubs in the past in the shape of Liverpool and Aston Villa. The Spaniard remained loyal to the Latics, but he may feel that now is the time to take a step-up.

The job at Everton will an attractive prospect to a lot of bosses, as the Toffees will finish sixth in the Premier League and in fact in nine out of the last ten seasons would have qualified for Europe with their current points total.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has stated that he believes that his manager will stay loyal to the club and help the club bounce straight back up into the top flight. However, Whelan also stated that he would not stand in Martinez’s way if the Spaniard wished to join the Toffees.

Bounce back

It will be tough for Wigan to bounce straight back up into the Premier League. A number of their top players are likely to move on this summer, with the likes of James McCarthy and Arouna Kone believed to be high on a host of Premier League clubs summer shopping lists.

It is vital that Wigan can keep the core of the team that won the FA Cup. It is also important that should they lose Martinez, which is highly likely, they find a boss with a similar philosophy. Too many teams have struggled to cope with life after the Premier League. I just hope that the Latics do not go the same way.

Proud

Everybody connected with Wigan should be proud of their football club. They have come a long way in the last two decades and I just hope that the progress the Latics have made is not wasted. At least the Latics fans will always have their FA Cup victory to dilute the pain of relegation.

Can Wigan bounce straight back into the Premier League next season?

Wed 15 May, 2013
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Wigan deserve FA Cup final victory

Wigan defeated Manchester City 1-0 in yesterdays FA Cup final

Wigan defeated Manchester City 1-0 in yesterdays FA Cup final

Wigan claimed a famous 1-0 FA Cup final victory over oil-rich Manchester City at Wembley yesterday.

The underdogs richly deserved their victory and were the better of the two teams. The Latics got their reward for an excellent team performance.

Underdogs

An underdog has not won the FA Cup final since 1995 when Everton defeated Manchester United 1-0.

Wigan went into this clash as clear underdogs with odds of 8/1 and higher listed at Unibet and other big bookmakers. And not many neutrals gave the Latics a chance of claiming the famous old trophy.

However, Roberto Martinez’s men had different ideas and looked more like the favourites in the clash. City arrived expecting just to lift the trophy and got a short sharp shock from the Premier League strugglers.

Outstanding

Although the whole Wigan side put in an outstanding performance, one player stood out Callum McManaman. The youngster has been much-maligned for a dangerous tackle on Newcastle full-back Massadio Haidara.

It was a poor tackle, but the youngster should now be able to move on from the incident and yesterday’s performance proved that he could compete against top class opponents. Repeatedly he took on the City defence and caused them problems.

The 22 year-olds Wigan career lifted off in the early rounds of the FA Cup and he is now a regular in the Premier League team. The exciting young winger has the potential to become a very good player in the future.

Clever

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was very astute in the way he set-up his team in yesterday’s clash. He decided to leave McManaman and Arouna Kone up field and attack City’s flanks. The tactics worked a treat, as McManaman saw a lot of the ball and cause problems.

Martinez was very aware of how City can be very narrow at times and like any good boss exploited what he saw as City’s weakness. It is these sorts of decisions that have made the Spaniard so highly-rated.

The Wigan chairman Dave Whelan believes that the 39 year-old will stay with the Latics, despite speculation mounting that he is top of Everton’s wishlist to replace David Moyes. The former-Swansea boss has ruled out discussing his future until the summer.

Survival

Much will depend on whether the Latics survive the drop this season. The Latics face a vital game at Arsenal on Tuesday night, by then though they could be in major trouble, if Newcastle and Norwich win their games today.

However, after their victory over Manchester City Wigan will believe that anything is possible and the Latics claimed a victory at the Emirates Stadium last season. With morale high amongst the Wigan players, they could yet still pull off the great escape.

Lacklustre

Not to deride Wigan’s victory, but Manchester City really did produce a lacklustre display. The Citizens did create chances, but they did not do enough to deserve victory.

According to reports Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini maybe replaced by Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini in the summer. The FA Cup final defeat will only add to the speculation that the Italian boss is set to leave Eastland’s this summer.

The City owners will no doubt be unhappy at not claiming silverware this season and Mancini could pay the price for that failure by losing his job. Failure is not an option at the Etihad Stadium these days.

Difference

Wigan’s victory in the FA Cup final could have a major influence on what happens next season for both Manchester City and Wigan. As previously mentioned the defeat could cost Roberto Mancini his job.

For Wigan, it could be just as important. The win could inspire the confidence needed for the Latics to beat the drop. That would mean keeping their best players, but even more importantly could mean keeping their highly-rated manager.

Martinez deserves all the credit he gets and deserves a chance at a bigger club and after the FA Cup final triumph the Spaniards stock will be even higher.

Magic

Wigan winning the FA Cup was the biggest shock since Wimbledon defeated Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final. It was unexpected and frankly deserved victory. Wigan’s win shows that the magic of the FA Cup still survives.

Will Wigan now survive the drop from the Premier League?

Sun 12 May, 2013
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Mancini: We didn´t deserve to lose

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini doesn’t feel that his side deserved to lose the FA Cup final against Wigan.

City lost 1-0 to Roberto Martinez’s men thanks to a late Ben Watson goal, but their manager believes that while his side were not at their best, they were still unfortunate not to win the match.

Mancini, who will end the season without having won a trophy, said his team’s inability to take the chances they created is what cost them.

“I’m disappointed. We conceded a goal in the last seconds in a game where we didn’t play very well, but we didn’t deserve to lose. But that’s football,” he told BBC 5 Live.

“We started slowly but we had two incredible chances in the first half but didn’t score.”

Mancini added that he was pleased for Wigan, especially their boss Martinez and chairman Dave Whelan.

“In the end Wigan won and I am happy for Wigan, Martinez and his chairman,” said the Italian.

“Martinez is a good man and a good manager. If we couldn’t win I’m happy he won this cup.”

The defeat is likely to increase the pressure on Mancini, with reports suggesting Manuel Pellegrini may be in line to take his job at the Etihad Stadium.

However, the current City boss described such rumours as “rubbish” after the match.
Sat 11 May, 2013
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Martinez: Wigan weren´t lucky to win FA Cup

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has insisted luck did not play a part in his side’s 1-0 FA Cup final victory over Manchester City on Saturday.

Martinez’s men went into the game as firm underdogs but came out winners thanks to Ben Watson’s 90th-minute header, which came after Pablo Zabaleta had been sent off.

And the Spaniard says Wigan’s “incredible” performance, not good fortune, was the reason behind their first trophy win since lifting the Second Division title in 2003.

“In any final you feel the result could go either way. We were playing an incredible side. We didn’t win by luck – from start to finish it was an incredible performance,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“The FA Cup is such a special tournament, and everyone deserves to feel proud today.”

“We’ve got two big games in front of us and we wanted to conserve energy, but it was difficult!

“Everyone wrote us off before the game, but we were following a dream. You cannot describe the feeling at the moment. My players faced adversity and played with a smile. I am so proud of them.”

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan led his team out prior to the final, 53 years on from breaking his leg playing for Blackburn Rovers in the Wembley showpiece.

And the 76-year-old has admitted he did not believe the club were capable of pulling off an emotional victory.

“At the start, secretly I didn’t think we could win. I thought we’d fight and we would be close,” he said.
“You cannot describe what it feels like when you get hold of that FA Cup. Now we want Wigan rugby league team to come here and lift the Challenge Cup, and then both the cups are in Wigan!”

Sat 11 May, 2013
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FA Cup: Manchester City 0 Wigan 1

Wigan produced one of the biggest shocks in FA Cup history as they earned a 1-0 final win over Manchester City on Saturday.

City toiled for much of the game against a Wigan side willing to show plenty of endeavour and, after Pablo Zabaleta was sent off for a second bookable offence, Roberto Martinez’s side capitalised as Ben Watson headed home a late, late corner to win it.
The headline team news for Manchester City came in the shape of Roberto Mancini’s decision to pick Joe Hart in goal over Costel Pantilimon.
The Romanian had featured in every round prior to the final, conceding just one goal, but missed out with his fellow shot-stopper among just three players to retain their place from the midweek win over West Brom.
Wigan, meanwhile, made just two changes from their demoralising Premier League defeat at the hands of Swansea, with Gary Caldwell and Ben Watson making way for Paul Scharner and Antolin Alcaraz.
Understandably given the teams’ respective fortunes in the Premier League this season, City started the brighter at Wembley. And with barely two minutes on the clock Yaya Toure almost provided the perfect start as he followed up Carlos Tevez’s deflected free-kick but could not beat Joel Robles’ dive.
Wigan soon proved that they would not be easy pickings, however, as Arouna Kone’s intelligent ball allowed Callum McManaman to turn in the box.
The young attacker should perhaps have pulled back to his Ivorian team-mate instead of driving wide in an attempt to score on his weaker foot but the underdogs’ intentions were clear.
Both sides struggled to get going creatively after that exchange of chances, with 30 minutes having lapsed until another flourish of opportunities.
Tevez was the recipient of both but the Argentine was foiled by a brilliant Robles save following a David Silva pull-back before driving the ball high and wide from the right-hand side.
Martinez’s side then took their turn at attacking in an end-to-end encounter, with McManaman beating the offside trap but inadvertently tightening his angle and failing to get a shot beyond a scrambling City defence.
That proved to be the last genuine chance of the half, but City were soon at it again after the restart with Sergio Aguero seeing his shot well saved before Vincent Kompany headed narrowly over. McManaman then fashioned another great chance for himself with 65 minutes on the clock, jinking beyond two defenders but seeing his shot blocked brilliantly by the sliding Kompany.
City could only manage a 1-0 victory against Wigan in the sides’ meeting at the Etihad Stadium in April, a win which came courtesy of an 83rd-minute winner. Mancini’s side looked ready to pull off the same trick again as they pressed for a winner with time running out, only for the game to take an unfortunate twist – in their eyes at least.
Zabaleta, who had already received a yellow card for a trip on McManaman in the second half, lunged into the same man again as he broke from midfield and gave the referee little choice but to brandish a second caution and a red card.
That decision gave Wigan’s tiring legs a timely boost, and things were about to get even better for the underdogs. Shaun Maloney’s gorgeous corner delivery begged a touch and Watson duly obliged, meeting the ball with a towering header at the front post which found the far corner beyond a sprawling Joe Hart.
The timing of the goal could not have been more perfect, with City failing to muster even a chance in the remaining minutes as Wigan secured a dream result.
Sat 11 May, 2013
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A tale of sheikhs versus paupers in the FA Cup final

The two Roberto's Mancini and Martinez go head-to-head in the FA Cup, as Manchester City face wigan

The two Roberto’s Mancini and Martinez go head-to-head in the FA Cup final, as Manchester City face wigan

Manchester City and Wigan face each other later today in the FA Cup final. The pair has enjoyed contrasting fortunes this season.

Manchester City challenged for the Premier League title as expected, but fell just short of their relentless neighbours Manchester United.

While their opponents Wigan have endured another season of struggling at the bottom of the Premier League table.

In fact, you could even say that this cup final is an unwanted distraction for the Latics, with a crucial Premier League game coming up on Tuesday night.

Contrast

This is very much a case of sheikhs vs. paupers. Manchester City has had the fortune of having hundreds of millions of pounds to spend on players, courtesy of their oil-rich owner Sheikh Mansour. The money spent has already brought in trophies and will probably carry on doing so in the future.

In contrast, Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has been a very shrewd operator in the transfer market to bring in players that have so far been good enough to keep Wigan in the Premier League, so far that is.

Budget

Martinez’s work on a shoestring budget has attracted interest from elsewhere in his managerial services. In previous summers, the Spaniard has attracted the interest of Aston Villa and Liverpool. His performance in keeping Wigan in the top flight, while playing passing football, has now attracted the interest of Everton.

The Toffee’s will be without a manager on July 1st, when David Moyes leaves to join Manchester United to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. Martinez had been the favourite for the job for a good while, but he is starting to slip in the betting, after declaring he would not make a decision on his future until the summer.

The speculation must be an unwanted distraction, but it seems that the move would interest the Spaniard. The move to Goodison Park may become even more enticing if the Latics lose their battle for survival.

Priority

The FA Cup final really is not Wigan’s priority. It may be a good day out for the fans, as the Latic’s have never made it to the FA Cup final. However, it is impossible for the fans and players not to be thinking about the crunch trip to Arsenal on Tuesday night in the Premier League.

Tuesday night’s clash is a must-win game for the Latics, but they will find it difficult to win against an Arsenal team still looking to secure Champions League football for next season. The Latics have performed miracles in surviving the drop in the last few seasons, but this could be one too many relegation battle for the Latic’s.

Trophies

Although at the start of the season the FA Cup would not have been top of Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini’s wishlist it is always nice to claim silverware. Prior to Mancini’s arrival at Eastland’s trophies were in short supply at City.

Under Roberto Mancini, City has claimed silverware in the previous two seasons. Last season the Citizens claimed the Premier League title and the season before that they won the FA Cup.

Speculation in the media has grown in the last few days that Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini could replace the Italian in the City dugout. Mancini has done a decent job at City and it seems that the majority of City fans want the Italian to stay at the club.

I think it would be harsh on the Italian if he were to be sacked this summer, especially with Manchester United set to be in a transition season under new boss David Moyes. Surely Mancini should be given another season?

Winners

It is hard to see any other outcome than a Manchester City victory at Wembley. The Citizens will not want to end the season without a trophy and the FA Cup final is the perfect opportunity for City to continue winning silverware.

Had Wigan already been safe from the drop then I believe they would make this game more of a priority. However, with Premier League survival at risk, I am sure that this game will take a backseat to Tuesday’s game.

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez claims that his teams focus is fully on the FA Cup final. However, that is hard to believe with Wigan so precariously placed in the Premier League table. I would not back against a Wigan win, but they certainly head into the game as major underdogs.

Who will win the FA Cup final?

Sat 11 May, 2013
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Prediction: Manchester City vs Wigan

10th May 2013

Playing at Wembley is a special feeling whatever the occasion, but the FA Cup final might just be the most important game played at the famous venue. Manchester City and Wigan are this year’s finalists with both sides extremely motivated to make a hugely disappointing season tolerable by lifting the coveted trophy.

As much as Roberto Mancini is looking to blame everyone but himself, the fact is he has failed to get the maximum out of his star-studded squad this term. Team’s Champions League campaign was a huge disappointment and the Citizens have no excuse for finishing bottom of their group even if they had to battle the likes of Real, Dortmund and Ajax. Meanwhile, the team have failed to mount a serious title challenge in the Premier League despite being tipped as pre-season favourites for the trophy, but at least they are still in the running for the FA Cup trophy. Manchester City are obviously odds-on favourites to beat Wigan at Wembley, and they really seem to have raised their game over the last couple of months. Apart from the last two games, in which it was evident the players are thinking about the FA Cup final, City have played really well of late and they have every reason to believe the title is their for the taking. Unlike his counterpart, Roberto Mancini had the courtesy of resting his key players and those carrying knocks over the last couple of weeks, which should give the Citizens an extra edge in this match. Yaya Toure should be fit to play, whilst Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Gareth Barry and Matija Nastasic are set to be recalled.

The FA Cup final comes at a bad time for Wigan Athletic, who have just suffered a huge blow to their survival bid having lost at home to Swansea. With the Latics due to play Arsenal away and Aston Villa at home and being three points adrift of safety, everything suggests the escape artists will go down this time and this is not the feeling they would like to have going into the FA Cup final. It is perfectly clear that numerous injuries have disrupted the team’s momentum in the crucial stage of the season, and no doubt the Latics will need a massive effort if they are to upset their more illustrious opponents and lift the coveted title. It does appear the players are running on empty after having played so many crucial games in the last few weeks, while Roberto Mancini faces an anxious wait over several key men. While Ivan Ramis and Maynor Figueroa are definitely out, Antolin Alcaraz and Jean Beausejour are major doubts, while Ronnie Stam has been ruled out for the season. All things considered, Wigan don’t look they can match full-strength Manchester City at the moment.

Conclusion

Manchester City have been able to fully focus on the FA Cup final and that should help their sheer quality stand out against injury-hit Wigan. The Latics are not only set for relegation to the Championship, but their key players are either injured or suffering from fatigue, so there is every chance City will win this one with few goals to spare.

Verdict: Manchester City with -1.5 Asian handicap

Best Odds: 49/50

Bookmaker: bet365

Fri 10 May, 2013
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Yaya Toure saddened by Kolo´s City departure

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has admitted his disappointment that brother Kolo is set to leave the club at the end of the season.

The defender moved to the Etihad Stadium in 2009 in a 16 million pound deal from Arsenal, but will not have his contract extended in the summer and has been told he is free to find a new club.

Yaya stated the opportunity to play in the same team as his brother was one of the reasons he joined the club from La Liga champions Barcelona in 2010.
“When you come to a big club you need to have some guys helping and looking out for you and Kolo was an important factor in me coming here,” he said.
“I have really enjoyed my football in England and I want to continue that as much as possible.
“It is sad that Kolo is leaving. But in life you cannot be happy all the time. Kolo is a great man, a great personality and my big brother. He was always giving me good and important advice and he has told me not to worry – everything will be fine.”
Toure, who signed a new four-year contract in April, is hoping to extend his own personal form at Wembley in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Wigan, after scoring the winning goals in the semi-final and final of the 2011 competition against Manchester United and Stoke City respectively.
But he had a stern warning for the team not to underestimate a relegation-threatened Wigan side.
“It is going to be difficult because we cannot think Wigan will let the trophy go just because of the situation they are in now in the Premier League,” he added.
“We let the title go, so this is a very important occasion for us. It is very important to keep winning trophies. That is why I signed a new contract.”
Fri 10 May, 2013
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Yaya Toure saddened by Kolo´s City departure

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has admitted his disappointment that brother Kolo is set to leave the club at the end of the season.

The defender moved to the Etihad Stadium in 2009 in a 16 million pound deal from Arsenal, but will not have his contract extended in the summer and has been told he is free to find a new club.

Yaya stated the opportunity to play in the same team as his brother was one of the reasons he joined the club from La Liga champions Barcelona in 2010.
“When you come to a big club you need to have some guys helping and looking out for you and Kolo was an important factor in me coming here,” he said.
“I have really enjoyed my football in England and I want to continue that as much as possible.
“It is sad that Kolo is leaving. But in life you cannot be happy all the time. Kolo is a great man, a great personality and my big brother. He was always giving me good and important advice and he has told me not to worry – everything will be fine.”
Toure, who signed a new four-year contract in April, is hoping to extend his own personal form at Wembley in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Wigan, after scoring the winning goals in the semi-final and final of the 2011 competition against Manchester United and Stoke City respectively.
But he had a stern warning for the team not to underestimate a relegation-threatened Wigan side.
“It is going to be difficult because we cannot think Wigan will let the trophy go just because of the situation they are in now in the Premier League,” he added.
“We let the title go, so this is a very important occasion for us. It is very important to keep winning trophies. That is why I signed a new contract.”
Fri 10 May, 2013
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Yaya Toure saddened by Kolo´s City departure

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has admitted his disappointment that brother Kolo is set to leave the club at the end of the season.

The defender moved to the Etihad Stadium in 2009 in a 16 million pound deal from Arsenal, but will not have his contract extended in the summer and has been told he is free to find a new club.

Yaya stated the opportunity to play in the same team as his brother was one of the reasons he joined the club from La Liga champions Barcelona in 2010.
“When you come to a big club you need to have some guys helping and looking out for you and Kolo was an important factor in me coming here,” he said.
“I have really enjoyed my football in England and I want to continue that as much as possible.
“It is sad that Kolo is leaving. But in life you cannot be happy all the time. Kolo is a great man, a great personality and my big brother. He was always giving me good and important advice and he has told me not to worry – everything will be fine.”
Toure, who signed a new four-year contract in April, is hoping to extend his own personal form at Wembley in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Wigan, after scoring the winning goals in the semi-final and final of the 2011 competition against Manchester United and Stoke City respectively.
But he had a stern warning for the team not to underestimate a relegation-threatened Wigan side.
“It is going to be difficult because we cannot think Wigan will let the trophy go just because of the situation they are in now in the Premier League,” he added.
“We let the title go, so this is a very important occasion for us. It is very important to keep winning trophies. That is why I signed a new contract.”
Fri 10 May, 2013
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Yaya Toure saddened by Kolo´s City departure

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has admitted his disappointment that brother Kolo is set to leave the club at the end of the season.

The defender moved to the Etihad Stadium in 2009 in a 16 million pound deal from Arsenal, but will not have his contract extended in the summer and has been told he is free to find a new club.

Yaya stated the opportunity to play in the same team as his brother was one of the reasons he joined the club from La Liga champions Barcelona in 2010.
“When you come to a big club you need to have some guys helping and looking out for you and Kolo was an important factor in me coming here,” he said.
“I have really enjoyed my football in England and I want to continue that as much as possible.
“It is sad that Kolo is leaving. But in life you cannot be happy all the time. Kolo is a great man, a great personality and my big brother. He was always giving me good and important advice and he has told me not to worry – everything will be fine.”
Toure, who signed a new four-year contract in April, is hoping to extend his own personal form at Wembley in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Wigan, after scoring the winning goals in the semi-final and final of the 2011 competition against Manchester United and Stoke City respectively.
But he had a stern warning for the team not to underestimate a relegation-threatened Wigan side.
“It is going to be difficult because we cannot think Wigan will let the trophy go just because of the situation they are in now in the Premier League,” he added.
“We let the title go, so this is a very important occasion for us. It is very important to keep winning trophies. That is why I signed a new contract.”
Fri 10 May, 2013
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Yaya Toure saddened by Kolo´s City departure

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has admitted his disappointment that brother Kolo is set to leave the club at the end of the season.

The defender moved to the Etihad Stadium in 2009 in a 16 million pound deal from Arsenal, but will not have his contract extended in the summer and has been told he is free to find a new club.

Yaya stated the opportunity to play in the same team as his brother was one of the reasons he joined the club from La Liga champions Barcelona in 2010.
“When you come to a big club you need to have some guys helping and looking out for you and Kolo was an important factor in me coming here,” he said.
“I have really enjoyed my football in England and I want to continue that as much as possible.
“It is sad that Kolo is leaving. But in life you cannot be happy all the time. Kolo is a great man, a great personality and my big brother. He was always giving me good and important advice and he has told me not to worry – everything will be fine.”
Toure, who signed a new four-year contract in April, is hoping to extend his own personal form at Wembley in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Wigan, after scoring the winning goals in the semi-final and final of the 2011 competition against Manchester United and Stoke City respectively.
But he had a stern warning for the team not to underestimate a relegation-threatened Wigan side.
“It is going to be difficult because we cannot think Wigan will let the trophy go just because of the situation they are in now in the Premier League,” he added.
“We let the title go, so this is a very important occasion for us. It is very important to keep winning trophies. That is why I signed a new contract.”
Fri 10 May, 2013
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Pantilmon: FA Cup final could be my last City game

Manchester City goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon has revealed that Saturday’s FA Cup final could be his last game for the club.

The Romanian has been ever-present throughout City’s march to the final, keeping four clean sheets in five games to set up a Wembley meeting with Wigan.

However, having failed to oust Joe Hart as the club’s number one in the Premier League, Pantilimon says he wishes to leave the Etihad Stadium at the end of the season.

“I am happy I am here, but it’s normal that I want to play,” he said. “I’m only young and I want to play more.

“The technical staff and everyone knows that after the season is finished, I want to leave, as I want to play more.

“I don’t know if Saturday will be my last game for the club.”

The 26-year-old joined Roberto Mancini’s side from Politehnica Timisoara on a permanent deal in 2012 following a year-long loan spell at the club.

He has never made an appearance in the English top-flight over two seasons.
Thu 9 May, 2013
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Zabaleta: City squad playing for Wembley places

Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta says his team-mates view every game as a chance to fight for a starting berth in the FA Cup final.

Roberto Mancini’s side face West Brom in the Premier League on Wednesday in their last game before the Wembley showdown with Wigan on Saturday.

And despite City having little to play for with the title out of their grasp and a top-four finish assured, the Argentine expects a committed performance against the Midlands outfit.

“We will all be playing for places at Wembley,” he said. “Every single player will want to show the manager that they want to play in that game.

“We want to keep winning to make sure we get second place. Then we can turn our focus to Wembley. Hopefully winning will give us momentum for such an important game. Winning gives you confidence and makes you stronger.

“It’s important for the club to keep winning trophies. The main target for the team was to retain the title which was difficult but winning the FA Cup is always important because it is a special competition.”

City battled to a last-gasp 2-1 win in the reverse fixture following the dismissal of James Milner, and Zabaleta expects his team to be tested again.

“It was a strange one,” he added. “Milner was sent off but we won thanks to a couple of late goals from [Edin] Dzeko. West Brom are a good team.”
Tue 7 May, 2013
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Maloney: Wigan can win at Wembley

Wigan attacker Shaun Maloney is confident his side can stun Manchester City in Saturday’s FA Cup final.

Roberto Martinez’s side are given little chance of causing an upset at Wembley, but they will enter the final in good form.

Wigan won 3-2 at West Brom on Saturday to keep their hopes of Premier League survival alive and Maloney, who set up two of the goals, feels his side have the ability to beat anyone on their day.

“Winning trophies at a club like this probably isn’t the first thing on your mind at the start of the season, but as each round comes along you get more excited,” he said.

“Once it gets within touching distance then you start to believe. We are a good team and on any given day I think we can beat any team. We are hoping that happens in the cup final.

“Our manager always preaches that you should try and enjoy your matches and that’s what we try to do. We know on our day we can beat any team. We’ve proved it in the Premier League.

“We’ve had tough games against City in the past and we know how many great players they have. But if we play at our best and pass the ball as we can, we can give them real problems.

“We beat Man United last season to stay up and that shows what we can do.”

Wigan – who won seven of their last nine matches last term to avoid relegation – are two points adrift of safety with three league matches to play this season.

They face Swansea City in a crucial home fixture on Tuesday.
Sun 5 May, 2013
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Nastasic hungry for FA Cup success

Manchester City defender Matija Nastasic is excited about the chance of playing in his side’s FA Cup final against Wigan.

Nastasic – who joined City from Fiorentina for 12 million pounds in the off-season – has made a terrific start to life in England, making 29 appearances in all competitions throughout the campaign.

The 20-year-old has shown maturity beyond his years and wants to win his first trophy with City against Wigan on Saturday.

“I’m quite philosophical about it. I know people say we are favourites but we are aware that Wigan are a good team,” Nastasic told the Daily Star.

“They have nothing to lose and the burden of expectation is on us. But it’s like any game. I want to win and my team-mates feel the same.

“As a small kid I watched a lot of finals and I’m aware of its history and tradition. Being part of it now myself means a great deal. The final is not over (though). Definitely.”

Sun 5 May, 2013
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Whelan: FA Cup win would not make up for relegation

Wigan owner Dave Whelan has warned that winning the FA Cup will count for nothing if his side are relegated from the Premier League.

Roberto Martinez’s side have flirted with relegation in the past couple of seasons and been able to lift themselves out of the bottom three just in time, but with only a handful of matches remaining, Whelan knows the players will need to put in a lot of hard work to secure a ninth straight season in the Premier League.

The Lancashire club will take on Manchester City in the Wembley final on May 11 and, although Whelan acknowledges winning the trophy “would be amazing”, he does not want it to come at the cost of their top-flight status.

“Survival in the Premier League remains the number one priority for this football club,” he told The Evening Post.

“Winning the FA Cup would be amazing, but not if it comes at the expense of us losing our Premier League status.

“You always have to concentrate on one game at a time, and for us that is West Brom in the Premier League. The feeling in the camp now is one of total concentration ahead of the West Brom game.

“We’ve got a couple of massive games in the league before we go to Wembley, and the lads will be up for them – big style.”

Wigan travel to the Hawthorns on Saturday, where they have enjoyed fine form in recent seasons having avoided defeat in their last four.

They are currently sat 18th in the Premier League, five points adrift of Aston Villa with a game in hand and Whelan knows how crucial it is that they come away with a win.

“It’s a massive game for us – and we all know that,” he added. “We have to go there and win. We have to win.

“We actually went to West Brom last year and won 1-0, and it will be a real fight again this time. They’ve played well this season, even though they have had a bit of a patchy run of late.

“They showed last week at Southampton what they are capable of, when they won 3-0, and we have to be ready for that.”

Fri 3 May, 2013
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Marriner to referee FA Cup final

The Premier League’s Andre Marriner has expressed his joy at being named the referee for the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium on May 11.

Marriner will be joined by assistant referees Stephen Child and Simon Long on the pitch, with Anthony Taylor rounding out the crew as the fourth official.

And now the former Birmingham Amateur Football League man, who began his career as a referee by chance in 1992, has spoken of the appointment as the fulfillment of a childhood dream.

“It’s a great honour to be asked to referee the 2013 FA Cup Final especially as it coincides with the 150th anniversary of The Football Association,” he told the Premier League’s official website on Wednesday.

“To be involved in the FA Cup final is ultimately every schoolboy’s dream, and, as an occasion, they don’t come much bigger.

“I’ll approach the Cup Final as I would any other fixture but obviously the whole event is on a completely different scale as it is the biggest club game in world football. The FA Cup is revered around the world because of the importance and history of the competition.”

General Manager of Professional Game Match Officials Limited Mike Riley lauded Marriner in a statement of his own.

“It is a richly deserved appointment for Andre who has been at the very top of his game both domestically and internationally this season. It is also recognition for over two decades of fantastic service to refereeing,” he said.

Wed 17 April, 2013
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Platt living FA Cup dream, again

Manchester City coach David Platt believes the FA Cup still holds a special place in the hearts of English supporters.

City defeated Chelsea 2-1 on Sunday to reach the showpiece final with Wigan on May 11, a result Platt believes is huge in the context of the season.

“It is a big result. There are trophies to play for, you set off every season playing the trophies that you are involved in and you want to win them all,” Platt said.

“The FA Cup has got its own status in this country.

“There is nothing like an FA Cup final in England really, it stands the test of time despite all the euphoria around the Champions League and the Premier League, which are the big prizes let’s not be silly about it.

“It is a great day no matter when it is played, whether it is played at the end of the season or a couple of weeks before the end, it is a great day and we are delighted to be in it.

City face Wigan in the Premier League on Wednesday before another date with Roberto Martinez’s side in the FA Cup final.

City have now defeated arch rivals Manchester United and Chelsea 2-1 in their last two matches and Platt says their level of performance has grown in the latter stage of the season despite not being in contention to win the title.

“I think the performances in the last two have been almost good for different reasons,” he said.

“I think last season we probably eulogised about the manner in which we were playing but at Old Trafford we went and played in a very controlled manner.

“We didn’t dominate in both games, either against Manchester United or Chelsea but we were composed and assured.”

Tue 16 April, 2013
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