Manchester City will be looking to keep the hope of a quadruple alive, when they take on Cardiff City in the FA Cup
Premier League leaders Manchester City will embark on a trip to Wales, as they gear up to face EFL Championship side Cardiff City, in the fourth round of the FA Cup, on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola’s City have been unstoppable this season, having bulldozed their way through to the top of the Premier League table and progressed to the finals of the Carabao Cup as well. With their UEFA Champions League and FA Cup campaigns also going on a strong note, there have been mentions of the Cityzens going on to win a historic quadruple.
For that hope to stay intact, they will need to get past Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds on Sunday. Manchester City made it to this stage of the competition having thrashed fellow Premier League outfit Burnley 4-1 in the previous round.
On the other hand, Cardiff too have had a strong league campaign in the second tier of English football and sit third in the table, with promotion to the Premier League a strong possibility. However, they had to go through a replay to get past League Two side Mansfield Town in the third round, but manager Warnock will be hoping to put up a tough fight against City at home.
Team News and Tactics
Lee Peltier (hip), Aron Gunnarsson (knee), Craig Bryson (Achilles) and Danny Ward (knee) remain sidelined for the Bluebirds, while on-loan winger Yanic Wildschut will not be available as he is cup-tied, having already represented parent club Norwich City in the third round.
Marko Grujic, on loan from Liverpool, will be available for selection though, and so will Kadeem Harris, after he made his first appearance last weekend, following a lengthy period on the treatment table.
Warnock will no doubt field his strongest XI to face the Premier League leaders on Sunday, meaning Neil Etheridge should continue between the sticks with Bruno Ecuele Manga, Sean Morrison and Sol Bamba forming the three-man defensive shield in front of him. The trio have been solid in the league games, but will face a stern test against City’s attack.
Jazz Richards and Joe Bennett will occupy the right and left wing-back slots respectively. It is likely that they will be spending most of their time holed up in their own half, to try and keep the City wingers under check. Joe Ralls and loanee Marko Grujic will partner up in the centre of the park and try and stop City’s midfield runners from getting into dangerous areas.
Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Junior Hoilett will operate on the flanks and will look to put their pace to good use to try and catch City on the counter, with Kenneth Zohore acting as the lone striker.
Probable line-up (3-4-2-1): Etheridge; Manga, Morrison, Bamba; Richards, Ralls, Grujic, Bennett; Mendez-Laing, Hoilett; Zohore;
There are no fresh injury concerns for Pep going into the game. Kyle Walker, who picked up a head injury during the midweek win over Bristol City in the Carabao Cup, has been declared fit and will be available for selection for the Sky Blues. Benjamin Mendy, Fabian Delph, Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden are the only absentees for City.
City will set up in their usual 4-1-4-1 formation, with anointed goalkeeper for cup games, Claudio Bravo, set to take the pitch once again, while Danilo and Oleksandr Zinchenko be expected to provide the width going forward from the full-back areas. Club captain Vincent Kompany, who was named on the bench for the midweek game, should find himself starting the game alongside Eliaquim Mangala.
Experienced midfielder Yaya Toure will occupy the deepest position in the central midfield and look to act as the chain between the two halves of the pitch. Manchester City’s creator-in-chief Kevin De Bruyne is expected to slot in the advanced midfield positions alongside Ilkay Gundogan, with David Silva likely to be given a breather by the manager.
On the right-flank, summer signing Bernardo Silva is expected to get a nod on Sunday, with Leroy Sane slotting in on the opposite flank. Given their quality and their technical abilities, both the wide players will be a handful for Cardiff to deal with. And with Gabriel Jesus out with an injury, Pep has no options to rotate at the top, meaning Sergio Aguero will once again act as the focal point of the attack.
Probable line-up (4-1-4-1): Bravo; Danilo, Kompany, Mangala, Zinchenko; Toure; B Silva, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Sane; Aguero;
- The two teams have faced each other on 49 occasions, with City winning 20 of these encounters and the Bluebirds emerging triumphant 9 times.
- Cardiff City registered a surprise 3-2 win when they last hosted the Sky Blues back in August 2013, in the Premier League.
- Cardiff last met Manchester City in the FA Cup in January 1994, when they knocked out their top-flight opponents as a third-tier side (1-0 in round four).
- Cardiff have won just one of their previous seven home games in the FA Cup (D1 L5), last winning against Colchester United in January 2015 (3-1).
- Manchester City have just faced defeat only one time in domestic competitions in the 2017/18 campaign, a 4-3 loss against Anfield in the Premier League, earlier this month.
Player to watch
Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
The Manchester City club captain hasn’t played a single game since being taken off injured against Newcastle United in December last year and has missed six games in all competitions since. His stop-start campaign due to injuries, seems to have frustrated the manager as well, who went on to claim that he cannot rely on his captain for long periods of the season.
Fit again though, Sunday’s game will provide Kompany with a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of his manager and prove to Guardiola that he has still plenty left to offer to the club.
Cardiff City 1-3 Manchester City
Cardiff City will look to make it a physical battle against Guardiola’s side and could find a way to breach a backline that hasn’t played regularly together this season. However, given the attacking riches that this Manchester City side possesses, it would take a herculean task to stop them. And here at the Hard Tackle, we predict a relatively comfortable 3-1 win for the Premier League side.