After City and Wigan booked their place in the FA Cup Final at the weekend both teams get a chance to suss each other out before the Final in tomorrow evening’s Premier League tie. Here is a round up of all the talk before the match. For City, David Platt and Gareth Barry preview the game. For Wigan, Roberto Martinez and Ali Al Habsi share their thoughts.
The game on Sunday came a bit too early for David (Silva), though if we’d have pushed it, he probably could have played some part and had it been the last game of the season, we may well have done – but we felt the risk was too great. I think playing him in the game with Wigan could also be a risk so we’ll probably be pragmatic and give him a bit more time. That risk diminishes each passing day, but if he plays against Wigan and it’s too soon, he could miss the trip to Spurs and other games so we’ll see how it goes and how he feels. He’s training again but not with the main group just yet.
Micah (Richards) has been back in full training for almost two weeks and he’s played a couple of EDS games so he’s available for selection. Whether he could get through a full 90 minutes is another story. Jack (Rodwell) could also make the squad though, like Micah, I doubt he would be ready for a full game. Squad selection and team selection are two different things and you can’t afford to have too many players starting who you suspect you may have to substitute at some point.
There will also be players who expended a lot of energy against Chelsea so we will look carefully at both the starting eleven and the bench. It’s great to have Jack and Micah back and it means that we almost have a fully-fit squad to choose from and if we pick up no new injuries against Wigan and David recovers as well, a fully-fit squad for Spurs.
Wigan will have to treat this game like a cup final because of their position in the table so in many ways, it will be a dress rehearsal for the FA Cup. Wigan can’t afford to lose too many games in the weeks that remain but they have proved over the years that they can somehow hit form in the latter stages and do enough to stay up so this will be a hard game. But they have also had a lot of games where they have been well beaten so you never know which Wigan will turn up.
We will prepare for the Wigan that turns on the style and expect it to be a tricky evening. If we win, it maintains our aim of finishing as strongly as possible and it would also help my old club Aston Villa who are a great club and I’d like to see them retain their Premier League status.
It is frustrating in many ways because we’ve shown what a great team we are and what a strong we have in the last few games. So it’s only natural to think that had we played at our best all year we could have had a great chance of retaining the title, but that’s probably not going to be, now.
We’ve had injuries this year we didn’t have last time around and we have almost a fully-fit squad now and I think it shows. Micah is just about there now and the manager can pick his strongest squad which I don’t think he’s been able to very often – if at all this season. All we can do is take each game as it comes, play our best and try and win. Next season we will be back and have learned from what has happened and the aim will be to win the title back.
We’ve got such an important game on Wednesday that there was no time to celebrate (the semi-final win). When the time comes to pick the competition up again – when the FA Cup final is in front of us – then we’ll be able to get into that mood again but I thought that we switched straight back into normality on Sunday.
We had a good day’s work and now we’re just focusing on what we’ve got in front of us which is of major, major importance – and that’s the way we want it. When you’re at this stage of the season and you’re still involved in two competitions and every game has an incredible meaning, it gives you that sense of focus and that’s what I’ve seen at the training ground.
The players have been able to enjoy their football – the way we played in the semi-final was ‘ourselves’ – which impressed me a lot because we’ve never been to Wembley in this competition so it was a real test to see if we could be ‘ourselves’. I thought the players looked very relaxed, very mature and played in the manner that they normally play every game and I think that speaks volumes about the mentality of this group of players.
Ali Al Habsi
We will do it. We will stay in the Premier League. The FA Cup won’t distract us. Our squad is big enough to cope. We have been in this situation many times, we believe in ourselves and we will be okay.
We are a small club and we don’t have that many fans but they all believe in the team. To reach the FA Cup final for the first time is amazing. But I can promise it won’t be a distraction. It all has to be done in order, first the league, then the final, then Europe. Brilliant.
Compiled by Rob Toole