After Manchester City took a substantial stride towards the Champions League Quarter Finals in midweek the next task facing Pep Guardiola and his squad is the negotiation of a tricky fifth round tie against a Wigan side that are pushing for promotion to the Championship.
Wigan currently sit in second place in League One having slipped from the top spot after a consecutive defeats against mid-table opposition in the shape of Southend and Blackpool. The FA Cup may well come then as a welcome distraction to Paul Cook and his players as they face the Premier League leaders. Prior to these recent losses, Wigan hadn’t tasted defeat in any competition since mid-November & they will surely be looking to this fixture as a chance to step away from the weekly concerns of securing points for promotion.
It is a classic Underdog v Big Club and they will be sent out quite rightly by their manager with an instruction to play their football, give their best, enjoy their game and see if they can achieve an upset. They will benefit from the broadcast fee of £247,500 (per club), and will have one eye on the £180,000 that is awarded to the winners from The FA prize fund.
Should the game end in a draw there will be a replay.
Referee: Anthony ‘I support Altrincham’ Taylor
Assistant Referees: Steve Child; Edward Smart
Fourth Official: Jeremy Simpson
Wigan will be missing Shaun MacDonald and Craig Morgan whilst City are without long term absentee Benjamin Mendy and Gabriel Jesus although the latter is close to a return.
Pep will have two issues on his mind in respect of team selection – how much to rotate the squad given that City face Arsenal next weekend in the League Cup Final and he will have a wariness on the thorny subject of injuries. He will be more than aware that Leroy Sane was on the end of an ugly, agricultural challenge in the last round and whilst he will be pleased to see him back earlier than originally expected, Pep would be forgiven (by us rather than some in the media) for being a bit wary of the risk that this sort of game presents.
Nevertheless, as previously mentioned, Pep is a great believer in momentum and will not want to see the side feel the deflation of a loss plus all the ballyhoo in the media about the ‘Quadruple Hopes blown away’ taking the wind out of the sails of the squad. For all his denials the longer the season goes on the more he will have one eye on that tantalising prospect. He is wise to counsel caution and take each game as it comes because he knows that is the ONLY way to be successful in any of the competitions.
With this in mind I am thinking of some wholesale changes in defence only with Stones getting time to improve his match fitness and Laporte having a taste of English cup football. Kevin De Bruyne may well be kept in reserve with Ilkay Gundogan should getting a chance to build on his MotM performance in midweek, David Silva and Sane improving their match fitness, Bernardo Silva (aka ‘sticky feet’) getting another run out as Sterling is rested and Aguero looking to bang in some more goals
Danilo, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko
Gundogan, Fernandinho, Silva B
Silva B, Aguero, Sane
Ederson, Kompany, Walker, Adarabioyo, De Bruyne, Foden, Diaz
Doubtless much will be made of the FA Cup Final defeat in 2013 but as we all know that is history – City were a different club then as one manager’s time was clearly running out. This squad are a different beast altogether.
Come On City!!!
Wigan Athletic v Manchester City – match preview