Date: 23rd February 2010 at 7:00pm
Written by:

Groan. Here we go again with Throw Hard 4 – The Final Conflict. Even the TV cameras can’t be bothered to turn up for this FA Cup 5th round replay…

Vital Quotes:

Roberto Mancini:

‘Against Stoke, the ball will always be in the air. So we will prepare for a different game and not play our football. We must work on the high ball, on corners and free kicks, long balls and long passes. If we want to win this game, we must play like them.

‘I read that the players are angry because I changed the time of the training sessions, that I changed things because we did more tactical work. I work in this mode. I work because I think if you want to win the Premier League, if you want to win the Champions League, you must prepare very well for every situation. Tactics, power, running – if these aren’t very good, it is impossible to win.

‘For me it is incredible when I read that I have a problem with some players. For me, everything is normal.’

Tony Pulis:

‘Every time I turn the TV on now someone is throwing it long. Gareth Bale does it for Tottenham and I watched Southampton’s FA Cup tie against Portsmouth and one of their lads was picking it up and throwing it into the box. People do it. It is just that we might do it better than others.

‘…it’s now-or-never, winner-takes-all stuff. It’s got to be decided one way or another this time and I see two teams both desperate to get through to the next round, make no mistake about that. I’m hoping our fans turn out in force. If they do, I know they’ll give us the kind of support we will need to try to carry us through.’

Pablo Zabaleta:

‘We have to forget about the Premier League for now. Stoke is going to be hard but it’s a real chance for us to progress in the FA Cup. We know how hard they will be, we did not play well at times against them last week but we know if we play good football we can beat them. We should have the quality to do that, so we know what we have to do.

‘We want Carlos back, he’s so important for us. He has been fantastic for us this season, but it’s important that his family is OK. We have to understand what he is going through because it is such a long way to Argentina. It’s not just two or three hours, it can take 18 hours or more to fly back there. It’s tough for him, but I have been thinking of him. But we’d like him back soon because there are some important games coming up for us.’

Gareth Barry:

‘The more we’ve played against them, the more we’ve adapted. So hopefully the experience we’ve got from the previous games can help us on Wednesday night and see us through. Give Stoke credit, it’s the way they win games. Sometimes you have to go down that route. We’ve got to concentrate on our own game. They will be playing in the Britannia Stadium in that atmosphere that they create. That’s when we need to call on our experience.

‘It’s a great reward if you can get through – Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. So there’s something there to aim for, but Wednesday night’s going to be tough first. We are working hard on the training pitch and all the players are right behind the manager.’

Salif Diao:

‘The big teams definitely get more favourable treatment against us. The club have said that and it is true. I hope it will not happen against City this time.

‘Maybe it will give us an extra sense of motivation and we have to give everything. It is good to get them at home and playing in front of our crowd. It is a cup game, we have got nothing to lose.’

For more hacks trying to make trouble over Tevez by shite stirring, watch the City gaffer fending them off:
VMC City Video Link: Mancio Pre Stoke Press Replay Conference

Stoke City Team News:

The Blues won’t be heartened to hear that Matthew Etherington, arguably Stoke’s best player will undergo a late fitness test.

SUSPENDED: Faye and Wilkinson
DOUBTFUL: Etherington and Higginbotham

Player to watch: Rory Delap

Again, who else? Just what is it about this bloke having an array of VIKEA towels strategically placed around the ground for ball wiping pre-scud missile throw purposes??

There’s got to be something in the rule books about that.

Manchester CITY Team News:

Mancio confirmed at today’s press conference (see above video link) that Carlos Tevez, who has spoken to should be back in Manchester in time to face league leaders Chelsea, but not to take on Stoke’s air raids.

The usual suspects will face late fitness tests. Crocky Santa Cruz? Really, it’s time to give over.

Should the hapless Kolo Toure replace the commanding Vincent Kompany, City’s big travelling support will not be impressed.

DOUBTFUL: Toure and Santa Cruz
INJURED: Petrov and Michael Johnson
CUP TIED: Adam Johnson

Player to watch: Gareth Barry

Over the past couple of months Barry has been poor by the high standards he usually sets, tending to drift in and out of games and not taking midfield by the scruff of the neck.

He’s been caught in possession too often and has made wrong choices at key moments. Before his sacking, Mark Hughes hinted at Barry suffering from a hernia injury that could require surgery. Of course, in a World Cup year that would be the last thing Barry needed.

However, he has shown glimpses of what he is capable of on and off recently. This is as important a phase for Gareth Barry is it is for Manchester City. He must start delivering consistently.

Match Facts & Stats

Stoke remain undefeated this year.

The Citizens are unbeaten in 4 fixtures but have won only 1 fixture in 7 games.

Only 9 Premier League sides remain in the FA Cup competition.

City have lost 1 of the last 8 encounters with The Potters.

The winners will face Chelsea in the FA Cup Quarter Final at Stamford Bridge.

Follow The Game And The Debate Live In The VMC Match Day Forum:
MATCHDAY THREAD: FA Cup Stoke City vs Man City Replay – Wed Feb 24 – KO: 19:45 UK Time

Ref Watch:

Steve Bennett, Kent: Mr. Bennett is the second ref in a row who hasn’t officialled for us so far this season. As you recall, Sunday’s awful Mr. Walton has reffed us once this season and Liverpool, now SIX times. Mr. Bennett has reffed Stoke twice this season, both at the Britannia: Stoke 2 Burnley 0 and Stoke 3 Blackburn 0 (sent off Rovers’ Samba). We need a strong ref for this one, but Bennett is very often a ‘Homer.’

Match Prediction:

More of the same. And some more. Assuming City, as promised by Mancio, adopt the same containment fight fire with fire tactics of the previous encounters and the dreadful Stoke are unable to break us down, this could be a case of extra time, maybe even penalties until one of the prize fighters drops. City MUST start attempting to put Delap’s throw in’s off at least by standing the likes of Adebayor in front of him at the legal distance, rather than meekly accepting them into the box via a clear view. Based on recent evidence City will be up against it here and will need to work extremely hard to get past a seething Stoke side who will be feeling hard done by. But I’m hoping again that City’s extra talent can edge us past them at last.
Johnny On the Spot: Stoke 1 CITY 1 – City go through 1-2 aet

Next Fixtures:

A: Chelsea, Sat 27Feb 12h45 GMT
H: Spurs, Sat 6 Mar 12h45 GMT/ Sun 7 Mar FACQF A Chelsea
A: Sunderland, Sun 14 Mar 16h00 GMT
A: Fulham, Sat 20 Mar 15h00 GMT
H: Wigan, Mon 29 Mar 20h00 GMT

Click for the forum