It’s been a while since Manchester City played a team as low ranked as Newport County and this Saturday’s match is bound to captivate a nation that has been in love with the FA Cup since the 19th century.
It’s the classic David v Goliath encounter of mega-rich Premier League champions against a team just about in the bottom half of League Two who stand no chance — or do they? Because the FA Cup is FAMOUS for the unexpected.
Normally for our Inside the Opposition features we analyse the opponents based on what we know — but truth is, the only Newport I’ve ever watched was their FA Cup replay against Middlesbrough.
So instead of pretending to know anything about Michael Flynn’s team, I asked the necessary questions someone who knows it all about the League Two team — Callum Ellis, a Media Assistant at Newport County and student sports journalist.
13th in League Two but on a cup run dreams are made of! Fans queued for hours for tickets and the game is sold out. Just how big for Newport County is this fixture?
Michael Flynn up against Pep Guardiola at Rodney Parade – it’s still tough to get your head around. A dream fixture and I’m sure it still hasn’t sank in for many County supporters. I think it’s huge occasion, not only for the football club, but the city in general. The magic of the FA Cup is very much alive.
What style of football would you say Michael Flynn employs and will he have to switch it for the visit of City?
They try to maintain possession, play football and have been exciting to watch this season. Flynn’s men don’t seem fazed by the big occasions – and I’m sure they will head into the game against City with the same attitude.
How is Newport’s form coming into the game?
Despite the mid-week defeat against MK Dons, there were plenty of positives to take. On another night, the Exiles could have won by two or three but were denied by the woodwork on several occasions.
If you had to name one or two dannger men City should look out for at the weekend, who would they be?
Striking duo Jamille Matt and Padraig Amond have both impressed throughout the campaign. They link-up well together and have already managed a combined seven goals in the competition.
Much has been said about the pitch – and if it’s like it was against Middlesbrough, it could disrupt City’s passing game. Do you expect it to be in better condition come Saturday?
The pitch will no doubt play into the hands of County. However, I’m sure some of the most gifted players in world football will find a way to adapt to the conditions – but it will impact their fluidity. The ground staff deserve huge credit for the maintenance of the pitch considering the amount of games it has staged between football and rugby games this season.
What’s your predicted Newport XI to face City at the weekend?
If everyone is fit, I wouldn’t be surprised if Flynn opted for the same starting XI that saw off Middlesbrough in the previous round: Day, Butler, Demetriou, O’Brien (C), Poole, Willmott, Bennett, Bakinson, Labadie, Amond, Matt.
And finally, your score prediction? Any chance of a famous cupset in your view?
It will be tricky for the visitors, but I think the Guardiola’s men will do just enough to advance to the quarter finals – 1-2. Regardless of the result, it should be a great occasion.