Man City face defining moment in FA Cup final
London: Manchester City will attempt to end 35 years of failure on Saturday when they face Stoke in an FA Cup final which threatens to be upstaged by Manchester United`s record 19th league title.
Wembley`s hosting of the May 28 Champions League final means that for the first time, English football`s traditional end-of-season showpiece is taking place alongside a round of Premier League fixtures.
The nightmare scheduling scenario has left City`s moment in the sun jostling for attention with United, who require a solitary point at Blackburn to become the most successful club in English history.
Yet even if Manchester United are crowned Premier League champions, City can nevertheless be able to confirm their emergence as English football`s rising force with their first trophy since 1976.
Victory at Wembley would be the perfect end to a week that saw Roberto Mancini`s men clinch a Champions League spot.
And for Mancini, winning the FA Cup would be the first step in his mission to change the mentality of City, who have become the highest spending club in world football since their 2008 takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group.
"I`m excited by this and very proud for my players," Mancini said. "I always saw this game on TV in Italy - Manchester United against Chelsea and I watched when Harry Redknapp won with Portsmouth.”
"This is a very important moment for me in my career. The FA Cup is very important, it is my first final and the first time Manchester City have been in it for a long time. It will be a special day.”
"Our target was the Champions League and after that we wanted to get into one of the finals. We are in the FA final. It`s a good moment for us."
Mancini says he will wait until Saturday morning before deciding whether or not to start Carlos Tevez, the Argentinian international who returned from a one-month injury lay-off as a substitute in Tuesday`s win over Spurs.
"Carlos is getting better," said Mancini. "We now have two days to decide if he can play or not. At this stage I still don`t know whether he could play or not, we will make a decision on Saturday morning."
The danger for Mancini and City is that they face a Stoke side in superb form who will travel to Wembley comfortable in the knowledge that all of the pressure rests firmly on their lavishly-funded opponents` shoulders.
The Potters thrashed Bolton 5-0 in the semi-finals, and head to London fresh from a 3-1 demolition job on Arsenal last weekend.
For Stoke manager Tony Pulis, Saturday is an opportunity to avenge the bitter memory of 1999`s second division play-off final, when his Gillingham side led City 2-0 with two minutes to go only to end up losing on penalties.
"It will mean more against City," Pulis said. "We didn`t deserve to lose that game and I had never been back to Wembley for a game since because of it.”
"But it made me a stronger person. You take things out of defeat as well as victory."
Pulis is relishing the opportunity of taking on the financial Goliaths of the Premier League.
"I think in comparison of what the clubs have spent, in comparison of the size of the clubs, in comparison of who we`re dealing with, it`s as big a void as you will get," Pulis said.
"I`m not just saying that because it`s Stoke. I think Man City with most clubs, that`s going to be what`s going to happen. It wouldn`t surprise me next year if they go out and buy big again."
While Mancini and City dream of dominating a new era of English football, Pulis and Stoke have more modest goals.
"The greatest achievement is that next year we`ll be playing for a fourth year in the Premier League.”
"If you have a look at the way we`ve moved along and what we`ve done at the football club, on and off the pitch -- it`s been a remarkable story."