For a team that’s picked up more Carabao Cups than Vincent Kompany has had injuries in recent years, you’d be surprised if someone told you that the last time we won the FA Cup, Phil Foden was still sitting his SAT’s. It’s been far too long, and since the acquisition of serial winner Pep Guardiola; the two FA Cup campaigns he’s superintended have very much been ‘what ifs?’. A semi-final performance against Arsenal that embodied the 16/17 campaign, and a fifth-round performance against Wigan that sent the players crashing back down to Earth. Back to back humbling’s in a major competition is usually enough to make Pep see the red mist, and after going full strength against a Rotherham side that had about as much punch as a drink made with spirits, water and fruit juice – you get the impression he’s hell-bent on winning it this time round.
GK – Ederson: Prior to the Rotherham game, I suspected Muric would claim the spot between the sticks for the entirety of the cup campaign – much like Claudio Bravo did last season. Although, with Pep opting for the Brazilian in round three, it looks like this competition is being taken that little bit more seriously than last season.
RB – Kyle Walker: After a torrid December, Kyle has started to get his act back together recently. After being rested mid-week you’d expect him to return to his rightful spot against a left flank he shouldn’t have too much of a problem dealing with.
CB – Nicolas Otamendi: Pep surprised a few on Tuesday with his comments about Nico, saying “When he play’s he’s happy, when he doesn’t play, he’s not happy”. It’s not entirely clear the context that Pep intended to say this with, nonetheless; he should be happy this weekend as I think he’ll start after missing the Burton game.
CB – Aymeric Laporte: Whether you prefer Stones or Laporte, it’s undeniable that both have been almost flawless this season. For some reason though, it seems to be Stones who is sometimes inexplicably omitted from the starting XI’s, and I have a feeling that might be the case this weekend, with the Frenchman returning to proceedings at the back.
LB – Fabian Delph: After basically being the genesis of consistency alongside Fernandinho in the Pep era at City, it’s unclear as to why Delph has seemingly fallen off a bit of a cliff form-wise this season. Perhaps it’s because he’s simply not as good as we thought he was, and was the beneficiary of playing part in a near untouchable centurion side. Regardless of all that; you’d hope he still has enough in the tank to cope with Burnley as Mendy returns to full fitness.
CDM – Fernandinho: Since showing an extra-terrestrial exertion of energy in the Liverpool game, it’s no surprise that – after a performance that would’ve hospitalised most midfielders – he was in need of some rest. Since then he’s started games and been hauled off as soon as the win was a foregone conclusion, I think this’ll continue with Ferna coming off should we be two or three goals to the good.
CM – Bernardo Silva: Since showing an extra-terrestrial exertion of energy in the Liverpool game, it’s no surprise that – after a performance that would’ve hospitalised most midfielders – he was in need of some rest. He came on as a sub against Huddersfield and missed out on any action against Burton. It’s a no-brainer to play the man who scored in this exact fixture last season.
CM – David Silva: Much like Fernandinho, minute management has become paramount to David at this point in the season. In my eyes he’s still our most important player and I think Pep shares the same line of thinking. I’d expect him to be replaced by a De Bruyne or a Gundogan once he’s inflicted the damage he does week-in week-out.
RW – Raheem Sterling: Sean Dyche is no mug, he’ll be setting his side up with the full intention of defence coming first. Against sides like this you need that driving force that can pick up the ball, accelerate, and within seconds be creating a chance in behind. Raheem has been that driving force this season and especially with the questionable recent form of Mahrez, you’d be surprised to not see him starting.
LW – Leroy Sane: Rested in the meaningless mid-week game, it’d be silly to not play him in the meaningful weekend game. Probably the form City player recently; any early season complications he was experiencing are merely distant memories now. He’s back to his best, the final thing that needs to come for him is simply consistency, and that comes from playing games.
ST – Gabriel Jesus: No matter what the young Brazilian does, he just can’t seem to overthrow the pedigree that Aguero brings to start in the league games – something that a lot of fans would argue he rightfully deserves to do. So, for now, it seems he’s our cup striker. Starting both the Rotherham and Burton games before being basically rested in the second leg indicates that his next start is coming on Saturday. Come Tuesday, it should be back to normal with Sergio upfront away to Newcastle.
Subs: Muric, Mendy, Stones, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Aguero.
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