Manchester City take on Stoke City in the 2011 FA Cup final, and it's Roberto Mancini's side that has everything to prove. Manchester City have now secured Champions League football, but they still haven't won a major trophy since 1981, and they'll be hoping to end that drought against Tony Pulis' Stoke at Wembley on Saturday.
City should be favourites, of course, but discounting Stoke after their masterful demolition of Bolton (and their generally excellent play over the last few months) would be foolish. City had the harder path to the final, of course, having to get through cross-town rivals Manchester United to advance, but Bolton are hardly a weak side and Stoke absolutely obliterated them the last time they ventured out to London, eventually running out 5-0 winners.
The interesting thing about Stoke's recent successes is that they aren't really playing very Stoke-ily. Yes, there's still an element of long ball, and yes, Rory Delap is still the closest thing English football will get to a quarterback in, well, forever, but their best moments as of late have come from playing what could be generously described as a slick passing game. That's how they thrashed Bolton, and that might have to be how they beat their rather illustrious opponents here.
Unlike the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City are fully prepared to go toe to toe with the Potters in a physical battle. Their defence boasts the unflappable Vincent Kompany, as well as the slightly more flappable but still actually quite good Joleon Lescott, and Micah Richards is always up for a scrap at right back. And that's not even mentioning Nigel de Jong, who might be the most underrated midfielder in the Premier League. It's hard to see Stoke's muscle intimidating anyone on City, with the possible exception of David Silva.
Silva, however, is more than likely to intimidate Stoke. One of the most skillful players in the Premier League, Silva is fully capable of turning any defender (or groups of defenders, really) into a gibbering pile of mush. With Carlos Tevez's presence questionable and Yaya Toure likely to be expertly marshalled by a Stoke defence probably best decribed as 'burly', City will be looking for Silva to provide the cutting edge they'll need to need to get through Robert Huth and company.
Saturday May 14th, 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
More closely matched than one might think based on league position. However, closely matched doesn't necessarily mean entertaining, and this has 'brutal 1-0 win' all over it. In games like that it's certainly not impossible for the underdog to nick a point, but it's mostly going to be a matter of luck. The edge has to go to City, however - they have options and weapons that Tony Pulis could only dream of.