Date: 19th February 2017 at 1:21pm
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The FA Cup always throws up worrying times, especially for those with aspirations of succeeding in Europe or the Barclays Premier League. The last thing that a team in this position wants is a draw, and that is what City managed to achieve at Huddersfield Town yesterday.

Needing goals to get this fixture off his plate, Guardiola elected to present a side that looked totally at odds with that premise. Restoring Bravo for what I hope is only an FA Cup outing, City perhaps had more chance of conceding than scoring. Not a great move if you take the view that this could be your best route to silverware this season.

With Kompany once again believed to be adorning the sickbed and showing no positive signs of recovery, the backline was placed in the hands of Zabaleta, Otamendi, Stones and Kolarov. Delph and Fernando sat in from with the goal machines known as Navas, Fernandinho and Nolito supposedly supporting Aguero, who turned up looking as though he’s seen his own backside in a mirror.

Huddersfield are flying high in the Championship and it was clear that under their practically unknown manager David Wagner, did not fear their more illustrious opposition event though they were to be without City loanee Mooy, one of their better players this season, and also another half dozen who were rested for this match.

For their part, City paraded a side that should have been capable of winning except for the fact that in order to win you need at least one goal.

It wasn’t a bad match overall. Huddersfield gave as good as they got and did indeed find the back of the net. This was however disallowed because of one of their players, La Parra, was stood on the toenails of Bravo in an offside position.

For City it was a day of huffing and puffing, where Aguero, when his chance came was found wanting, and when he got himself in a superb position couldn’t believe it when Navas turned down the easy square pass to the best proven goalscorer in the Premier League in favour of trying to add to his own single goal in excess of 100 matches. Once again the wrong decision from a player whose days at the Etihad are coming to an end.

There was competition across midfield, but only Kolarov visited the notebook of Stretford Taylor for a needless foul in a needless place where the resultant free kick would provide more danger than the attack itself. He was eventually replaced by Sagna after limping off lame ahead of the end of the match.

City found it difficult to get going as Huddersfield pressed them well and as usual it was starvation at best for Aguero who too often cut that forlorn figure that has almost become his regular demeanour since the advent of Jesus, and the realisation that goals are not the only consideration for Guardiola. If Sergio could get back to being the prolific goal-a-match striker we have come to know and love at the Etihad then I feel there would be an ongoing future for him, but I fear this is no longer the case at Planet Etihad under the Guardiola tenure.

In Europe this week we have witnessed a sea change as Pep’s former charges, Barcelona, were blown apart by a team that offered more. PSG succeeded in isolating three Barca strikers, not just one, and we saw what happens when your front men don’t offer a first line of defence, leaving your midfielders on work overload. Fast forward 24 hours and we saw Arsenal, a side looking to either beat Chelsea to the Premier League title, or failing that, and they will, at least finish in the top four.

It is frightening that a Bayern Munchen team in pretty much first gear only had to step into second gear five times to point the Gooners to the way outside. Each time they clicked the gear stick they scored with ease. Imagine being your team’s Man-of-the-Match after collecting the ball from the netting five times. One has to feel sorry for Ospina.

With these results in mind no doubt Guardiola might be starting to see an opportunity in the Champions League. It’s one the Pedmachine doesn’t see but there may be something in the fact that Barcelona haven’t offered much since they beat City at the Camp Nou, have dropped out of contention for La Liga and are now effectively on the exit chute from the Champions League as the Catalonia Management Career of Luis Enrique draws to a close.

Maybe this was responsible for Pep’s team selection against the Tyke Terriers and this was therefore responsible for adding to the fixture congestion which will, in turn, be responsible for the closure of City’s reasonable efforts to close the gap on Chelsea, whose manager has declared that he wants to win the title and FA Cup double in his first season here.

If he was going to introduce Sane and De Bruyne to get a late goal, why not play them and get an early goal, then take them off? I never can understand that philosophy. Surely after 70 minutes it’s difficult to get into the flow of the game, whereas at the beginning they can get “at it” get a goal and get themselves replaced.

With the match against the Stretfords being rearranged because of their involvement in the EFL Cup, City won’t be playing again in the Premier League for what seems a lifetime, as they will not head to Sunderland until 5 March. As Southampton’s postponed match was against Arsenal the powers that aren’t in the Premier League should have arranged Arsenal v City for next weekend, but no doubt that interferes with the TV Schedules. I would have fancied the Blues in that one and it would have eased things later when we have Liverpool-Arsenal-Chelsea consecutively. Maybe it’s too difficult for the FA Exclusives to work out.

Of course, Monaco cannot be underestimated. They destroyed the Gooners last season and have also given their North London neighbours a fright this season, hence one of the reasons Spuds are contesting the Stretfords in the Stretford Thursday Cup. City will therefore need to be at their best to get a good result against a team whose league put their match on Friday to give them extra recovery time and who have scored a shed load of goals this season, have a difference of +52 in Ligue 1 and where the Stretford and Chelsea reject Falcao has plundered 20 goals in all competitions this season.

Aguero will really have to step up to the mark against them on Tuesday. He played immensely against Barcelona without scoring and I personally think that was the turning point in his season. He deserved a goal, but his goalbound shot was blocked and rebounded for Gundogan to finally score.

So at least there is an extra match for the fringe team to play in order to put themselves in the shop windows. This match will be played on 28th February whereas had it not been necessary Pep took have taken them away for a rest and some warm weather training. In the absence of any kind of competition at all Klopp has done likewise with Liverpool.

At least Wagner has other fish to fry too as he would prefer his side to at least get themselves into the play-offs or capitalise on any slip-ups by Brighton or Newcastle, and there may well be some. But the Blues must make a sensible selection, get the match won and then get ready for an onslaught of fixtures where you can bet that the Premier League will position the match against the Stretfords at the worst possible point for City, as they did in 2012, before their ill-gotten plans to present the Premier League title to United found themselves undone in the best possible circumstances for City and for football as a whole. Maybe history might repeat itself!

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