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Friday, May 13, 2011
Man City the big favorite in FA Cup final


The 130th installment of the world's oldest soccer competition culminates Saturday with the 2011 FA Cup final, as Manchester City and Stoke City take the field at Wembley Stadium in London. Four days after qualifying for Champions League for the first time, big-spending Manchester City is the distinct favorite going into the final.

• Eager to end a 35-year trophy drought, the Citizens will have to fight off in-form Stoke City, which is making its first final appearance. Stoke followed up its convincing 5-0 semifinal win over Bolton Wanderers with a confidence-boosting 3-1 league win over third-place Arsenal a week ago. Although City has scored only five goals in its past three FA Cup matches, the club's 17 goals throughout the course of the tournament total three more than Stoke's tally.

• Manchester City captain Carlos Tevez will be a game-time decision, and while his value is unquestioned, City has survived without him. His three FA Cup goals are tied with Patrick Vieira for most during the club's 2010-11 campaign. But Tevez missed Man City's semifinal win over his former team, Manchester United, because of an injury.

• The all-time FA Cup series between these two teams is tied at three wins each with one draw. Last season they met in an early round of the Cup, when Stoke needed two games and extra time to emerge victorious. Previously, these clubs hadn't met in the cup since a 1-0 Stoke win in 1976. The last time City beat Stoke in the FA Cup was a 3-2 win in 1973. This season in the Premier League, the two teams drew 1-1 at Britannia Stadium in November with the return leg to be played three days after the final.

• A top-flight team has won every FA Cup since the Premier League began in 1992-93. That streak will continue this year, but Stoke City, which currently sits eighth, could still be an exception. Only three FA Cup champions have finished the season eighth or worse in the Premier League, most recently eighth-place Portsmouth in 2007-08. 15th-place Everton won the FA Cup in 1994-95 and is the lowest-ranked Premier League team to lift the trophy.

• History is on Man City's side, as nine of the past 10 FA Cups have been won by top-four Premier League teams. The Soccer Power Index also favors the big spenders, giving City a 67 percent chance of lifting the FA Cup trophy on Saturday.