For Manchester City, Saturday’s FA Cup final offers the chance to provide a glittering consolation to their disappointments in the Premier League and the same may yet prove true for their opponents, Wigan Athletic.
City have put up a meek challenge to defend the championship that they won in such dramatic fashion last season, with Manchester United having regained the title in April. That failure has been compounded by a second-straight poor performance in the Champions League as they finished bottom of their group.
For a club that spent so long in the doldrums, the chance of lifting the FA Cup for the second time in three seasons cannot be taken lightly, yet, having poured over £1 billion into City since taking over in 2008, owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan is entitled to expect better.
There remains speculation over the future of manager Roberto Mancini and the result on Saturday could yet go some way to deciding his fate.
“When you start the season you want to win the best trophies or the most trophies that you can, but sometimes this is not possible," Mancini said in his pre-match press conference.
"I think we did a good season but not like last year, because we won the Premier League.”
While Manchester City have failed in their main objectives this season, the fate of Wigan’s still hangs firmly in the balance.
After masterminding a succession of great escapes with late season rallies many expected the same to happen again this time around. Yet, a 3-2 defeat at home to Swansea City in midweek has done potentially fatal damage to their hopes of avoiding the dreaded drop into the Championship.
With just two games of the season remaining, Wigan are three points from safety and know that they could well need to get something from their trip to Arsenal on Tuesday.
It hardly makes for ideal circumstances as Wigan contest their first FA Cup final in their 81-year history.
Manager Roberto Martinez, though, is urging his players to focus purely on the momentous opportunity Saturday offers for them and the club.
“You have to dream, and the bigger the dream the bigger the achievement," he said, according to BBC Sport.
"Winning the FA Cup would be there forever.
"Just arriving in the final is a photographic moment in the history of our football club.”
Wigan’s cause will not be helped by an injury crisis in their back line. Maynor Figueroa, Ivan Ramis, Ronnie Stam and Jean Beausejour are all ruled out, while Antonin Alcaraz is a major doubt.
Mancini made a host of changes to his side for Tuesday’s win over West Brom and has everyone, bar Scott Sinclair, available. Costel Pantilimon looks set to keep his place in goal ahead of Joe Hart, having been used throughout the competition.
Manchester City (probable)
D: Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy
M: Toure, Barry
Milner, Silva, Nasri
Wigan Athletic (probable)
D: Boyce, Scharner, Caldwell, Espinoza
M: McCarthy, Watson, McArthur
F: Kone, Maloney, McManaman
Prediction: It remains to be seen how the agonizing defeat to Swansea will impact the morale within the Wigan squad. If Martinez’s side is to have any chance of lifting the FA Cup then they will need to improve on a disastrous run of defensive performances that have seen them concede seven goals in their past three matches. With their injury problems at the back that improvement may prove elusive.
Manchester City have been far from sparkling in front of goal in recent times, however, finding the net just once in their previous two matches. Yet their players will know that Saturday’s encounter at Wembley gives them a last chance to salvage something from a disappointing campaign.
If Wigan play to their potential then they have the ability to make it an entertaining contest, but City should ultimately have too much quality.
Manchester City 3-1 Wigan Athletic
Where to watch: The FA Cup final will kick-off at 12.15 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox, with a delayed online stream available via Fox Soccer 2Go.