Manchester City turns their attention towards Rotherham in the FA Cup, a competition where Pep Guardiola has suffered disappointments in the past.
Manchester City are pitted against Rotherham to kick-start their FA Cup campaign. Pep Guardiola has indeed struggled against sides of any size in this competition after being dumped out by Wigan last season. It’s not to say Guardiola’s City are any not favourites to win this clash, but their uneven record against lower division sides dictates the manager approach this game with caution.
Manchester City are in a confident mood coming into this clash after beating Liverpool in the Premier League to re-establish themselves firmly in the Premier League title race. The Champions were on the verge of falling 10 points behind in the race as they entered the Liverpool game as underdogs, which is rare. However, City triumphed and will now turn their attention towards doing well in the FA Cup this season.
Rotherham will have fond memories of their recent trip to Wembley eight months ago when they secured their return to the Championships via the playoffs. However, with Manchester City standing in their way for the FA Cup clash, the side might find it a somewhat arduous journey back to Wembley.
Rotherham are embroiled in a relegation battle this season, and manager Paul Warne will have one eye on the next Championship games while giving the City clash only secondary importance. That said, Warne does not expect City to field a weakened team, in fact, he believes Guardiola will come into this clash with all guns blazing.
Team News & Tactics
Pep Guardiola could use the Rotherham game as a chance to give some much needed minutes to his younger and fringe stars. However, star man, Kevin De Bruyne could be in contention for a start and get some minutes under his belt after so far having a season disrupted with injuries.
Fabian Delph is set to be absent as he serves the last of his three-match suspension, while the likes of Phil Foden and Oleksandr Zinchenko set to for starts. Foden, in particular, has been impressive for City playing most of his time in cup competitions this season, while Zinchenko could be back in the side after being left out against Liverpool.
There could also be a place for Brahim Diaz, who could be playing his last game for City before his impending transfer to Real Madrid is completed.
Other names such as Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Kyle Walker, Eric Garcia, Ilkay Gundogan and Nicolas Otamendi could all get game time against Rotherham. Additionally, second choice goalkeeper, Aro Muric could start, thus giving Guardiola the chance to rest the overworked Ederson.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3) – Muric; Walker, Garcia, Otamendi, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Gundogan, Foden; Mahrez, Jesus, Diaz
Rotherham manager will be ruing Queens Park Rangers’ decision to recall key midfielder Ryan Manning from his season-long loan. However other on-loan players such as Billy Jones, Zak Vyner and Clark Robertson have all been given permission to play against Manchester City. The players as mentioned earlier could all be in contention to start.
There will be no role for Richie Towell in this game as the player misses out through suspension and the match will come too soon for Kyle Vassell after only returning to full training recently. Manager Paul Warne will be looking at fielding his strongest side, although he will have one form eye on the next fixtures in the Championships.
Warne will lineup his side with his standard 4-4-1-1 formation with the likes of Wiles and Smith leading the front line of attack. Ajayi, Robertson, Wood, and Mattock are all expected to take their places in defence, while Williams, Palmer, Vaulks, and Taylor all set for their respective midfield role.
Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1) – Rodak; Ajayi, Robertson, Wood, Mattock; Taylor, Vaulks, Palmer, Williams; Wiles; Smith
- Manchester City have been drawn against Rotherham for just the second time in the FA Cup, beating them in a third-round replay in 1978-79 the other time.
- The last time Manchester City faced Rotherham came in the second tier of English football back in March 2002 – a 1-1 draw.
- Manchester City have won just three of their last seven FA Cup games against sides from a lower division (D1 L3) with two of those defeats coming against Wigan.
- Rotherham have lost each of their last five FA Cup games, conceding two or more goals in each of those matches (14 in total) – their last victory in the competition came in round one of the 2013/14 season, beating Bradford 3-0.
Player To Watch
Kevin De Bruyne
After being the star of his team last season when Manchester City went on to win the Premier League impressively, Kevin De Bruyne has suffered through injuries this term. A significant injury at the earlier stages of this season has kept him out of action for most parts of this season, but his return from it hasn’t been a fruitful one either.
Pep Guardiola will have the luxury to play his premier playmaker against the likes of Rotherham in the FA Cup to give him some valuable game time. De Bruyne needs to take these games seriously and make the most of it, as a tight Premier League title chase awaits, and Manchester City needs the Belgian more than ever.
Manchester City 4-0 Rotherham
Manchester City are overwhelming favourites to win this tie against the Championship strugglers. Guardiola will undoubtedly field his fringe and young stars, although they are more than capable of dismantling Rotherham at the Etihad. Additionally, the likes of Premier League regulars such as Walker, De Bruyne, Gundogan, and Jesus will prove too difficult to handle for the lower division side.
Rotherham have been struggling to get a grip in the Championships since their promotion, and there are doubts of their involvement in the division next season. Manchester City have the psychological advantage here and will make sure they score past their opponents with ease and win this tie comfortably.