Venue: The John Smith’s Stadium
Date: 18 February 2017
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Kick off: 15:00
UK TV: Not on TV
You’ve got to love the FA Cup, right? City travel to Huddersfield Town on Saturday for a cup tie which will apparently break an attendance record at our hosts’ stadium. City will be looking to strike the balance between giving first-team players a rest and fielding a team capable of eliminating our impressive opponents.
So, what are the main things to consider ahead of the game?
Gabriel Jesus’ Injury is an Opportunity
The news that Gabriel Jesus would miss around two months of action this week was a real blow. However, these things are all about perspective. For a certain Sergio Aguero, the injury offers a real chance. With Pep seemingly unconvinced by Kelechi Iheanacho, Aguero is likely to start the majority of games in the next two months, something that was by no means a foregone conclusion just 6/7 days ago. However, opportunities have to be taken. At the moment, I’m not entirely convinced that Kun is ready to step up and take it. His play looks fairly ‘behind’ the pace required, though it’s fair to assume that recent performances have been affected by his lack of match sharpness. For Aguero to impress Pep enough to earn the striker a permanent spot in the starting XI, things will need to change. His pressing will need to be intensified somewhat. His build-up play will need to improve too, as this is where Kun has perhaps lacked most in recent games. As for his ‘final ball’, Aguero needs to do 1000% better. Until he spots the killer pass more frequently than he does the audacious shot, things aren’t likely to improve for him. This was exemplified a few times during City’s win at Bournemouth. Aguero is a legend amongst City fans already, but if Kun can overcome these latest challenges, he is sure to emerge as City’s most prolific goalscorer ever. Cementing his legacy as perhaps the most lethal striker the club has ever possessed.
Huddersfield Will Be a Stern Test
To be fair to Pep, he’s hardly got a poor record against the smaller sides for City. However, to ensure City’s progress on Saturday, he needs to remember to respect the opposition. Huddersfield may be a division below City, but they’re playing well, on good form and could be a contender for promotion in the coming months. It’ll be no easy test, even with Huddersfield missing the on-loan City midfielder Aaron Mooy to help them pull strings in midfield. Pep needs to pick his team carefully, with a huge Champions League tie coming up on Tuesday, he’s unlikely to play his first XI. Whether or not he produces wholesale changes though could be the difference between progression or not. Defensively, two of Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones should make the team. Fabian Delph looks likely to start too, with the recently banished Nolito almost certainly seeing this a chance to break back into the team. Sergio Aguero hasn’t started a game for a while, so I’d throw him straight into the mix to warm him up for the visit of Monaco next week. Whatever Pep chooses to do, it’s important to remember that this Huddersfield side will likely create plenty of chances and be looking for a scalp in a full stadium of fans who’ll be baying for blood. Be smart Pep, guide City through to the last eight.
Defensively, City Are Starting to Click
It’s been a while since City were a sturdy defensive unit, but the signs are there that things are changing. The Blues have recorded clean sheets in each of their last three away games, and have looked far less likely to concede in most games too. Some people will claim that the answer is obvious- Claudio Bravo hasn’t been in between the sticks very often lately. I think it runs deeper than that. But that’s not to take anything away from Willy Caballero. He’s manned the goal well, and generally speaking his distribution has been pretty inoffensive too. I’d be surprised if his place in net was threatened anytime soon, though Pep is a man who picks his team based on their training level, so it’s anyone’s guess. Further afield from the goal itself, things have been far more disciplined too. The midfielders have been helping out the defence, and the defence themselves have upped their game. The likes of Aleksandar Kolarov and Nicolas Otamendi haven’t had a bad game for while, with John Stones looking more and more comfortable with every passing 90. The full-backs still set the team back somewhat, but it’s an issue that I’m sure will be addressed this summer. Either way, the current defensive lineup is holding its own, and if they continue to do, we could have a productive end to the season.
Huddersfield are no mugs. They sit nicely in third in the Championship and recently beat one of the promotion favourites in Brighton at tomorrow’s venue. As mentioned earlier, City need not underestimate Huddersfield. If they don’t, all should be well come full-time.
I’m expecting goals, no matter how good City have been at the back lately. 4-2 to City.