Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 1 March 2017
Kick off: 19:45
A trip to Middlesbrough for an FA Cup Quarter-Final – that’s what awaits City if they are able to knock out Huddersfield tomorrow night. The Blues failed to get the job done when the two teams met in Yorkshire, however they have another stab at the job with a replay at the Etihad.
So, what is there to consider ahead of the tie?
The Lads Should Be Well Rested
Following City’s fantastic win against Monaco last week, the squad travelled to Abu Dhabi for a ‘warm weather training camp’ – a fitting reward for what was an excellent comeback.
Manchester United’s involvement in the EFL Cup final meant that City were without a game this weekend, and the visit of Huddersfield will be City’s first game in eight days. Those eight days should’ve given the squad a chance to rest up and recuperate before a challenging upcoming schedule.
City are still fighting on three fronts, and whether or not you see winning any of those competitions an unlikely feat, it’s not over until we’re down and out. Players such as Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sané, Yaya Touré, John Stones, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva have played a lot of football lately and I’m positive that they will have been grateful of the rest. The challenge now is to see whether or not the players can take off from where they left things – on the back of a decent unbeaten run. City will need to be just as resilient as they have been in previous weeks to emerge with a trophy to show for the campaign. A rest is well deserved and should only bode well for Pep and the boys.
This Team Doesn’t Give Up Easily
It’s been evident at various points in the season that a Pep Guardiola team won’t lie down and die, especially in Europe. City trailed three times at Celtic Park in September, and managed to emerge with a point. Later on in the competition, we found ourselves down at the hands of Barcelona, however, with the help of Ilkay Gundogan, the Blues turned things round magnificently to win 3-1.
City have come from behind to win a few times in the league too, away at Turf Moor and at home to Arsenal. Last Tuesday, Pep’s side showed a resilience that was tested time after time.
Firstly, I must congratulate Monaco. The sheer quality and pace of their attacking was mesmeric at times. Granted, they were the underdogs, but many of a Blue underestimated them. Instead, they showed everyone what they are all about, with superb attacking intent, not to mention the three away goals that they left with. But if Monaco were great going forward, City were unbelievable. To go 2-1 down after a controversial penalty decision looked to knock the stuffing out of City somewhat, but after half-time everything changed. City had to save a penalty to keep things close, before equalising somewhat fortunately through Sergio Aguero. But again, the Blues were tested. Monaco were back in front almost immediately and City had to find another gear. That they did, scoring three times in the last twenty minutes to turn the tie on its head. The spirit shown by the side that night was truly sensational, and is a hallmark of Guardiola’s philosophy – this team will not lie down.
Don’t Underestimate Huddersfield Twice
Before I say anything else, I want to assure you that I do believe that the team put out by Pep at Huddersfield almost a fortnight ago was good enough to win the game. However, for me – Guardiola took an unnecessary risk. I’m all up for rotation and resting players, but with a long rest period (a period that would’ve been longer had we beaten Huddersfield the first time) coming up, I think Pep should’ve gone for it.
As it ended up, it’s not too much bother, we get another bite of the cherry. However, Huddersfield will be keen to progress too. Especially with a winnable game at the Riverside Stadium awaiting the winner of the tie. If Pep plays a midfield as weak as he did in Yorkshire, City could come unstuck. For me, none of the players that started in midfield that day are bad players in their own right. Jesus Navas has had his moments for City, Nolito has something to offer, Fabian Delph is a capable deputy to our first-teamers, and Fernando (who I believe is the best of the bunch) actually had a pretty good game.
However, the combination of these four players in addition to Fernandinho didn’t work. There was no creativity, which meant that the off-form Sergio Aguero had virtually nothing to work with. I’m expecting Pep to rest players again, but this time I’d like to see a mixture of first-team players and able backups, rather than a midfield of misfits.
As I mentioned earlier, Huddersfield will see an opportunity to make it to Wembley with the draw having already been made. It remains to be seen whether or not they’ll play their strongest XI but the Terriers played well at home and City will need to be alert to emerge victorious.
I think City should ultimately have too much power for our opponents, especially if Pep plays a couple more first-team players. 3-1 City.