We’re yet again only two games from another trip to what seems like our second home, Wembley Stadium, in the FA Cup. Our journey takes us to South East Wales, to face a Newport County side who have defied the odds and have reached the Fifth Round, beating Leicester City and Middlesbrough along the way.
24th October 1962 is the date you have to dig through the archives to find the last time the two sides faced each other. In fact, the blues have only faced Saturday’s opposition on three occasions in our entire history, with Manchester City coming out on top all three times.
Pep Guardiola seems to be well aware City have not won this competition since 2011 and in the previous two rounds has fielded very strong sides. Guardiola confirmed in his press conference that he will be fielding a strong side, with only Benjamin Mendy and Vincent Kompany not ready to face the Welsh side.
Newport have not been able to turn their brilliant FA Cup run into success in the league though, with them currently sitting 15th in Sky Bet League Two and their boss Mike Flynn has had his say on the tie. He told reporters: “If we win this, whether it’s in extra time or penalties and I don’t care how we do it, it will be the biggest shock in FA Cup history. I say that with the biggest respect to other giant killings”
The blues were knocked out in this stage of the competition last season when Wigan, Will Grigg and co beat City 1-0 with a late goal. That game last season was a disaster from start to finish, from Delph’s straight red, to Pep going mental at what seemed like everyone, to the momentary lapse in concentration from Walker which let Will Grigg steal a march and score the winner. Guardiola will certainly not want a repeat of that night.
The big issue surrounding this game is of course the playing surface at Rodney Parade. The pitch is going to be cut up and will be tricky for the players who are used to such a pristine pitch at the Etihad. This then brings up the issue of team selection and who Pep decides to risk injury upon. We saw with the game against Burton Albion away, Benjamin Mendy was brought on for the last 15 minutes and caused more swelling on his knee which further put back his recovery. For this reason alone, I doubt we’d see the likes of Kevin De Bruyne feature in case it aggravates the knee problem that’s kept him out for 2/3rds of the season.
I’m confident though in this manager that we can turn in a professional and efficient performance to reach the quarter finals. I think an early goal could be key to settle down what is going to be a large and noisy crowd and then give us the power to add to the lead. But it would be typical City to make this difficult wouldn’t it.
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