Venue: Wembley Stadium
Date: 23 April 2017
Referee: Craig Pawson
Kick off: 15:00
The big day is almost here. City face a semi-final at Wembley on Sunday to decide whether or not they’ll enjoy a cup final appearance in May. Arsenal are the opponents. The Gunners are sure to present City with a sturdy challenge, and Pep Guardiola’s men will have to be at their best to advance. So, what is there to consider ahead of the clash?
Who Will Play at Centre-Half?
News emerged this week that John Stones will be injured for Sunday’s game with Arsenal, and could well miss the Manchester Derby on Thursday too. Such news means only one thing – Vincent Kompany’s importance to the squad has been reinstated. Our skipper’s involvement with the squad has been limited this season, with his usual injury concerns plaguing him throughout the campaign. However, in recent weeks, Kompany has trained normally, as stated by Guardiola in this week’s press conference. Could it be time for Vinnie to start with some regularity? I think so. John Stones’ absence shouldn’t be underestimated. The young English prodigy was playing very well before his injury, so the timing of his injury is more than inconvenient; for once though, City have options. Nicolas Otamendi isn’t everyone’s favourite centre-half, but has performed pretty consistently this season and offers a more than adequate partner to Kompany, if that’s the route that Guardiola chooses to take. On the other hand, Aleksandar Kolarov offers a left-footed option in the centre of defence. Again, not everyone’s preferred choice, Kolarov has done little wrong this season when played in the centre. Guardiola certainly has some decisions to make before the first whistle on Sunday.
Will Gabriel Jesus Have a Role to Play?
Pep Guardiola surprised everyone on Friday by declaring Gabriel Jesus fit for Sunday’s Wembley visit. It’s enough to make anybody excitable. The Brazilian superstar-to-be shocked everyone with the way he hit the ground running in January and February. His injury at Bournemouth was unfortunate, though some might argue that it has helped restore Sergio Aguero’s good form. If the two can work together in the same team, it could be an unstoppable partnership. Will that partnership begin on Sunday? I’m sceptical. I expect Jesus to make the bench, but I’m not expecting him to play a large part in the game. After such a long time out, I’m unsure about how confident I would be in Jesus’ ability to come into such a big game and shine, but the youngster seems to be full of surprises. Who knows though? Guardiola is hardly one for predictability; would anyone be truly shocked to Gabriel Jesus start the game? It is a mystery, but all will become clear in the next 24 hours.
City Need The Win
It sounds foolish to pin so much on one game, but tomorrow’s semi-final with Arsenal is a truly vital encounter. Of course, there is still Champions League football to secure, but there will be plenty of twists and turns to experience in that race yet. However, the chance of a trophy rests on tomorrow’s game. There is no chance of redemption if we lose, the hunt is over. Whether or not you believe that the FA Cup trumps a top four finish or vice versa, losing to what is the weakest Arsenal side that we’ve seen in over 15 years would be catastrophic. It would do the rest of our season no good, and a win is vital. It might sound obvious, but were City playing Chelsea or Tottenham, I don’t believe the pressure would be as high. City must at least reach the final tomorrow, and give ourselves a chance in what will be a one-off game against two sides who both sit above us in the league. City are more than capable of beating our North London counterparts, but actually doing so is integral to our season’s momentum.
Arsenal are a side who’re enduring their toughest season in a long time. Embroiled in a race for Champions League football, the Gunners are outsiders, with City looking a lot more healthy with regards to that particular objective. Regardless though, Arsenal’s quality is very apparent. Alexis Sanchez needs to be kept quiet if the Blues are to progress.
I think City will do it. 3-1. If we turn up on the day, I think we’ll have too much for a vulnerable Arsenal side. Aguero, De Bruyne and Toure to score.