7500 masochists make the short trip to Blackburn on Sunday looking for a City win that would take them to their first cup semi-final since 1981.
The turnout will be excellent, the support for the team unrivalled but you cannot help but wonder which Manchester City will bother to turn up.
12 months ago City faced West Ham in the FA Cup quarter final. All the talk was of City`s best chance of winning a trophy in 30 years. A home tie with West Ham was as good as could have been asked for and expectations were high.
City lost that game 2-1, but far worse than the result was the performance. The team failed to turn up for the big occasion and West Ham deserved their win and subsequent cup final. That game was, in my opinion, the game that has shaped the past twelve months at Manchester City.
Far too often since that quarter final I have had to write about players failing to turn up, of them going hiding on the pitch and of general poor performance. My hope for this game is that it can define the next twelve months just as the West Ham tie defined the twelve months just past.
Make no mistakes however; this will be a tough tie. Expectation is low and City go into the tie as clear underdogs. Rovers have already doubled us this season with the last visit to Ewood resulting in a 4-2 reverse.
I do believe that the last week will have shaped a few of the players up though. Criticism has been strong, but thoroughly deserved, and they must now realise they are going to have to roll their sleeves up and earn their inflated salaries. Stuart Pearce has acknowledged that he is in a precarious position with many giving him just this tie and the midweek Chelsea fixture to save his job.
My hope is that the pressure will make the manager and players react positively. Many put us in a similar predicament over Christmas and they pulled through with a string of battling wins, that attitude is needed once more.
Regardless of what is happening at the club one thing is for certain; that the supporters will respond positively. If the players cannot respond to the support they will receive today they do not deserve to play for the Club. I expect them to respond. Come on you blues; Wembley is just two games away.
Stuart Pearce speaks of the need to improve on last week’s abject showing.
‘That`s the nature of football. I think every weekend you owe yourself, the football club and the people you work for, a performance. We were disappointed with the first 20 minutes last weekend and certainly the result. The only way to do something about it is to win the next game and that what football`s all about – winning the next game – it`s the only thing that counts.’
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Rovers are still missing Todd, Savage and Ooijer with long term injuries. Dunn is suspended.
Player to watch: McCarthy
The South African is a class act as his goal against Arsenal in the last round showed.
Manchester City Team News:
Mpenza may get his first start as Samaras and Corradi feel the heat their ineffective forward play has generated. Vassell and Dickov are both fit again and may feature at some stage for the blues.
Player to watch: Barton
A big game for Joey. Needs to dominate the midfield and show that he is the player he thinks he is.
Match Facts & Stats
Rovers have already doubled City twice this season. The previous Ewood Park encounter saw Rovers win 4-2 in a game that was a lot closer than their recent 3-0 victory at Eastlands.
City have fond memories of big games at Ewood Park, their most memorable game of recent years ending in a 4-1 win in the Joe Royle promotion season.
Another crumb of comfort comes from happier times still. When the blues last won the FA Cup in 69 their opponents in the quarter final were Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
Mike Dean …. Not Riley or Poll so we can’t complain too much. Well not until after the game anyway.
My head says a nailed on Blackburn win given City’s recent form. Thankfully I rarely go with what my head says where City are concerned. I’ll take a score draw with a nice replay set up for Eastlands.
If the tie is drawn the replay is penciled in for Monday 19th March at 1945. However the rags drew last night so one game will have to be moved if City do need the replay, expect it to be ours.