Soccer: Wigan aims to pull off shock FA Cup final victory
London • The FA Cup final on Saturday features two teams apparently heading in different directions.
There's Manchester City, confirmed for another season in the ritzy Champions League.
And Wigan, happy to forget for one day an impending fall into anonymity in the League Championship. Wigan, three points from avoiding relegation in the English Premier League with two games to go, still believes it can stay up.
In its pursuit for survival, Wigan says the FA Cup has been a driving force, and not a distraction. And in reaching the final for the first time, it's driven to pull off an almighty upset of the five-time cup champions at Wembley.
"There's no question of which we would rather have in terms of the FA Cup and Premier League survival, because we want both," Wigan midfielder James McArthur said.
"We're able to concentrate on the FA Cup and Premier League separately and, if anything, the Cup has been a positive to our Premier League form because it has built up winning rhythms which will hopefully happen again."
The pitch at Wembley is notoriously heavy and Wigan will hope the experience does not leave its players physically and mentally drained before tough league matches against Arsenal, only three days later, and Aston Villa, on the last day of the season.
Despite its heavy underdog status, Wigan goes into the final drawing encouragement from its recent league fixture against City, when it was unfortunate to lose 1-0 to a goal in the last 10 minutes.
City is also aware of its opponent's love of surprises. Wigan is well known for its tendency to upset the odds, beating the likes of Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea in recent seasons.
"We all know Manchester City are the major favorites and rightly so," Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said. "But there are many examples of major upsets in the past. It can happen but we will have to be perfect."
Wigan will also bring an emotional element to its biggest ever match through club chairman Dave Whelan, who will lead the team onto the field, 53 years after his own FA Cup final appearance for Blackburn ended with a broken leg and a 4-0 defeat.
Whelan bought Wigan in 2005 and his injection of funds has been integral to the club's rise. A little over a decade ago, Wigan was bottom of the fourth tier in English football. It surged up the divisions and has remained in the Premier League for seven consecutive seasons.
"The emotional side of the game is down to our chairman," Martinez said. "His attachment to this competition is quite rare.
"He ended that final in 1960 with a feeling of unfinished business so we are all excited about the prospect of him being able to lead the team out and complete the circle in this competition."
City is making its 10th appearance in the final, and looking for a second triumph in three seasons after beating Stoke 1-0 in 2011.
There's added motivation for City, in that having surrendered the Premier League title to Manchester United with more than a month to play, it can still capture silverware for a third straight year.
"Every single time it is something very special," City captain Vincent Kompany said. "You shouldn't take these kinds of games for granted, they don't always keep coming.
"It is unbelievable for us to do it again, and for the fans it is unbelievable as well. We have to be respectful of every trophy we can get. If we win this one it will be massive for the club and something to cherish."
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