Manchester City drew Championship high-flyers Bristol City in the semi final of the Carabao Cup, avoiding top six rivals Chelsea and Arsenal in the process. City fans’ knowledge of the Bristol club may stretch as far as memories of their historic giant killing in the quarter final, knocking out Mourinho’s United in an iconic evening at Ashton Gate. For that reason, I have taken a closer look inside the opposition, to help fans get to know Bristol City…
The Robins sit in fourth place in the Championship, just two points off the automatic promotion spots, and are managed by young coach Lee Johnson. It would be fair to coin Bristol City as overachievers in the division, with a meteoric rise from relegation strugglers to promised land Premier League hopefuls in a matter of months. Similar to Brighton last season, Bristol City is a club destined for success, based in the heart of a city that deserves a Premier League club.
Skipper Bailey Wright, Nathan Baker, Joe Bryan and Bobby Reid are set to return following being rested at Vicarage Road on Saturday, while new signing Liam Walsh will likely make the squad for the first time, following his move from Everton.
Johnson sets his side up with balance, built on a strong core and mixture of youth and experience. Aidan Flint and Marlon Pack for example both boast over 170 Bristol City appearances, and the latter has chipped in with six goals from central defence.
The deadly duo spearheading the charge is Matty Taylor and Bobby Reid. Taylor was subject to much controversy this time last year following his move from city rivals Bristol Rovers, leading to Lee Johnson receiving death threats, forcing him to move house.
Despite winning Twitter with their love of GIFs, Bristol City are a decent side, and City cannot underestimate them. They will play slightly less defensive than normal, yet I still imagine them to start in the usual 4-4-2 formation. The teams to cause City problems this season haven’t been those that have sat back, it has been the teams who have had a go at us playing bold football. Lee Johnson will have made notes.
MAN TO WATCH
There were a few to choose from in a decent footballing side, but I have earmarked Bobby Reid as the player that City should be fearful of the most. Following a few loan spells to lower leagues, coupled with failures to gain runs in the team, Reid has really stepped up his game this season following talisman Tammy Abraham’s return to parent club Chelsea.
Credit must go to boss Lee Johnson for his decision to move him from an attacking midfield role to a position in the forward line. The Robins’ faithful refer to Reid as ‘one of their own’, as the young attacker has become a key figure in their promotion charge, netting 12 goals this season.
Bristol City will be keen to tie Reid down to a new deal, amidst interest from Premier League outfits Leicester, Brighton and Burnley.
With the pattern of the semi-final games most likely to be wave after wave of City attacks, there will be spaces left behind as the likes of Otamendi or Stones advance with the ball looking for killer passes. For this reason, City will have to be wary of Bobby Reid’s abilities on the counter attack.
VIEW FROM THE OUTSIDE
Ahead of the games, I spoke to Bristol City fan site @BCFC_Supporters to get a view from the opposition, to gain a better insight into Lee Johnson’s men. I also caught up with journalism student and avid Championship follower Isaac Johnson, to ask him about Bristol City’s promotion charge, his views on the semi-final and what he made of Guardiola’s second season in England from an outside perspective…
Thoughts on Bristol City’s season so far
BCFC Supporters: We’ve had an amazing season so far. If you asked any City fan before the start of the season we’d be 4th and in the semi finals of the cup having knocked out Man United they would laugh in your face. Considering where we were last season and the squad we have, we have had a brilliant start and it’s great to see the board stick with Johnson and the results he has delivered. All the players, especially the younger ones have been doing so well in a league which is season by season getting harder, and the fact we play football that is very easy on the eye is fantastic.
Isaac: It was a tricky one; predicting how Bristol City would fare this season. After losing the goals of Tammy Abraham, which kept them in the division last year, many thought they would struggle, but the Robins have done anything but. They have certainly exceeded expectations by currently occupying a playoff spot and sitting just two points off the automatic promotion places, but after an unlucky defeat to pacesetters Wolves and a thrashing at the hands of Steve Bruce’s Villa, there are signs that they are beginning to stutter following a run of five league wins from six. Don’t however let this take away from the incredible work they have already done this campaign. Personally I think it may still be too early for this young, talented squad of players to win promotion, but it definitely wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility. They have proven to be an inspiration to the rest of the Championship in terms of how to build a winning setup in this league and there are plenty of teams out there now that could learn a lot from them.
Feelings on the marvelous cup run Bristol City have enjoyed this season
BCFC Supporters: What a night [The United game was] for everyone involved in the club. We have been waiting for a big tie like that for years and the manner in which we played the game and won it in the last minute… you really couldn’t have asked for anything better. So proud of everyone at the club for that!
Isaac: It is always great to see teams outside of the Premier League capturing the imagination of the country by going deep into a major competition, and this has been no different. Beating three Premier League teams in a row to set up the quarter final with United was no mean feat – the wins against Watford, Stoke and Crystal Palace were impressive, but it wasn’t until Bristol City dumped United out that fans from all over really began to sit up and take notice. Lee Johnson and his squad have been magnificent and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how they can build on the United result by flying the flag for the Championship once more against City on Tuesday night.
Opinions on City from an outside perspective
BCFC Supporters: I believe if we don’t concede any more than 3 and get a goal to boost confidence, we can give you a game back at Ashton gate. But you can’t deny it’s going to be a massive test, arguably the best team in the world at the moment! It’s going to be a great day out with everyone travelling and shows how far we’ve come as a club!
Isaac: It has been unbelievable; I don’t think anybody has ever seen anything like it here in England. They have proven to be capable of dismantling and destroying teams, as well as grinding out results when they haven’t been at their best and to do it so consistently has quashed any doubts that Pep Guardiola is the best manager on the planet right now. With the Premier League title looking all-but-wrapped up, City fans have every right to be hungry for more trophies – the Carabao Cup is looking very winnable considering they have (with no disrespect to Bristol City) the more favourable draw in the semis, they had a great result from behind on Saturday to kick-start their FA Cup campaign and on their day I think they are a match for anyone in the Champions League – so why not dare to dream?
Predictions for the semi-final tie and who is most likely to cause City problems
BCFC Supporters: 3-1 Man City – Sané (2) and Silva. Aden Flint to score for us!
Isaac: Bristol City have a good mix of talented technical players, but even though Manchester City are much more organised and have the best defence in the Premier League this season, I still feel the Robins’ best chance of nicking a goal or two could be from set pieces. Aden Flint, with his height, positioning and the runs he makes is a danger for any side. Bobby Reid has also been a revelation up top for Lee Johnson’s men this season and has proven he can be clinical in front of goal, so Guardiola will need to be wary of the runs he can make to get in behind City’s defence. When you look at what they did against United in the last round, you have to say anything is possible. However, when you consider how solid City have looked all season and the fact that the tie is played over two legs, it would take a shock of an even greater magnitude to pull it off.