Date: 27th February 2017 at 4:25pm
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Pep and his players return from their week in the sun to face the prospect of a motivated Huddersfield side in a replay neither side wanted. Let’s hope the players make a better fist of this FA Cup tie than they did the last time they jetted off to Abu Dhabi before a fixture in this competition when they promptly managed to lose to Middlesbrough.

The Terriers arrive at the Etihad undefeated in eight games and with their loss against Sheffield Wednesday the only blot on their copy book since the end of November. That’s one defeat in 18 games in all competitions – they are a team in form and despite failing to secure all three points against Yorkshire rivals Barnsley at the weekend they remain top of the Championship form table. They will have the bit between their teeth make no mistake and be looking to leave their Premier League rivals with a bloody nose come full time on Wednesday. We can only hope that a week of ‘warm weather training’ and rest will provide the City players with as much motivation and drive as Wagner`s side will bring to the Etihad.

Doubts exist over Kolarov’s and Clichy’s fitness to accompany the permanent ones over Vincent Kompany’s. Due to play in the original fixture he was replaced (to nobody’s surprise) late on with a ‘muscular problem’ and we await Pep’s press conference with interest initially for news on whether he has recovered sufficiently…and then the release of the team sheet at 6.45pm on Wednesday to reveal whether he is likely to make it onto the pitch for the first time since the defeat of Crystal Palace in the last round. The much maligned Bravo is likely to assume the position between the posts – his performance against Huddersfield last time out aided in no small way by the fact that his team mates seemed to have finally caught on that everyone needs to play a part in assisting him move the ball smoothly from the back. That process is a team responsibility and it requires everyone in the side to ensure that they move into the appropriate position not just to receive the ball from the keeper but then to provide options to the player the keeper has just passed to. They seemed to have been grasping this much better recently and it showed against Huddersfield.

As for the rest of the side…more game time for squad players such as Navas, Fernando and Nolito I expect but despite the form their opponents are in they should have enough quality to see City through to the next round. An exit from the cup three days after the Stretford’s claimed the League Cup would be manna from Heaven to the rags and the media alike and does not bear thinking about.

David Wagner’s side will of course be deprived of the services of Aaron Mooy on loan from City and ineligible to play against his parent club. They are also missing Scannell, Palmer and Hogg. Christopher Schindler and Harry Bunn are doubtful. With his side sitting 3rd in the Championship and on the coat tails of Newcastle and Brighton, David Wagner is likely to rotate his squad as well – the lure of Premier League football is too big a prize to seriously jeopardise for a cup run. That said the players selected know that this presents them with a great opportunity to force their way into his thinking and show why he should pick them for the first team. They have an incentive to show the ‘fancy-dans’ of the Premier League with their ‘warm weather training’ and trips to meet their rich owner a thing or two…on their home turf. The City players had better beware because if they still think that they are on the training pitches at the Emirates Hotel in Abu Dhabi when the game kicks off they could be in for a very rude awakening. Maybe the club should experience a problem with the heating in the away dressing room on Wednesday evening…

After the breathless, exhilarating match against Monaco this tie will present an altogether different professional challenge but one which the City players should be capable of taking in their stride. The benefit of spending a week in the sunshine of the United Arab Emirates will vanish in an instant if the final whistle blows and City aren’t pencilling in the arrangements for a trip to the North East on 11th March for a quarter final fixture against Boro.

No room for complacency. Back to business.

Come on City!!!

 
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