Manchester City travel to League Two club Cheltenham Town FC in the fourth round of the FA Cup as they look to continue their impressive form.

Cheltenham Town FC would be hoping to cause a famous FA Cup upset when Manchester City visit the Jonny-Rocks Stadium on Saturday. The Robins made it to the fourth round after defeating Mansfield Town 2-1 in extra time.

Manchester City, on the other hand, would be aiming to win their seventh FA Cup and start the new decade on a positive note with a trophy. City were comfortable victors over Birmingham City with a score of 3-0 as they entered the last 32.

After a rather slow start to the season by Pep Guardiola’s standards, Manchester City seem to be back in form as they are on a nine-game winning streak, where they have only conceded two goals. City have steamrolled past opponents and a strong foundation at the back has been key to their success.

Meanwhile, Cheltenham are winless in their past seven league games, albeit five of those were draws. The fourth division club sit in 6th place in the League Two, so a game against Manchester City should go a long way in the welfare of the club. However, having said that, the chances of an upset look rather slim and this could well be the end of the road for Cheltenham.

Team News & Tactics

Cheltenham

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Cheltenham’s boss Michael Duff has described the game versus Manchester City as “the ultimate free hit”, which means that they would be looking to cause an upset come Saturday. Duff’s men are expected to line-up with a back three and play a 3-5-2 system.

Cheltenham would hope to use the width of the pitch as much as possible and stretch Man City out, albeit with the minimal amount of ball that they will be able to see. To Cheltenham’s luck, there are not that many absentees coming into this game. Chris Hussey is the biggest miss as the left wing-back picked up an injury in the game versus Newport County in midweek. Elliot Bonds too is expected to miss the game.

Michael Duff is likely to hand starts to a majority of the players that started the game versus Newport. Cheltenham will stick to their tried and tested back three of Charlie Raglan, Ben Tozer and William Boyle. Lewis Freestone comes in for the injured Hussey on the left, while Matty Blair should start wide on the right.

A three-man midfield of Finn Azaz, Ellis Chapman and Conor Thomas are likely to start and battle it out against the mighty City midfield. Alfie May and George Lloyd are expected to lead the line-up, while Andy Williams remains on the bench.

The striking duo have only five goals to their name in the league this season and are a large part of the reason why Cheltenham have drawn so many games. They must be clinical versus Man City and take the minimal chances they get if they are to cause an upset in the FA Cup.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Griffiths; Raglan, Tozer, Boyle; Blair, Azaz, Chapman, Thomas, Freestone; May, Lloyd

Manchester City

Pep Guardiola comes into this game on the back of some stunning results as City are unbeaten in nine games now. However, the fixture congestion has not been kind to Manchester City as they have been a victim of some injuries of late. Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker are both sidelined after picking up injuries in the Aston Villa game.

Aymeric Laporte and Eric Garcia, too, have only just returned from injuries and are likely to start the game for the Cityzens. Nathan Ake remains sidelined while Taylor Harwood-Bellis contends for a start too. An appearance from the bench is possible too.

Despite being royally out of favour under Pep Guardiola after a series of indisciplined actions, Benjamin Mendy could be handed a start versus Cheltenham with Oleksandr Zinchenko expected to start the more important games in the Premier League. Joao Cancelo, who has been a revelation for Man City this season, will start from the right.

Fernandinho will play the role of the holding midfielder while Rodri earns a well-deserved rest after a great performance versus Aston Villa. Guardiola singled out Bernardo Silva for rest in his press conference, which could mean that Phil Foden may drop back in midfield, while youngster Tommy Doyle is handed a start alongside.

Ferran Torres may start his first game for Man City since recovering from COVID-19. Sergio Aguero was recently diagnosed with the virus as well which means that Gabriel Jesus will start up front alongside Riyad Mahrez, who has recently been out of favour.

Mahrez will be hoping to produce a big performance as the month-long absence of De Bruyne could create space in the team for the Algerian. Youngster Cole Palmer would be vying for a start as well but is likely to feature of the bench. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen will start ahead of Ederson in goal after proving to be solid whenever called upon this season.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Steffen; Mendy, Laporte, Garcia, Cancelo; Foden, Fernandinho, Doyle; Torres, Jesus, Mahrez

Key Stats

  • Cheltenham are hoping to reach the FA Cup fifth round for just the second time in the history of the club, previously reaching there in the 2001/02 season.
  • Manchester City’s Phil Foden has been involved in 8 games in his last 8 FA Cup appearances averaging a goal contribution every 64 minutes.
  • This is the first-ever meeting between Cheltenham and Man City. The hosts have previously lost all eight of their League Cup/FA Cup ties versus Premier League oppositions.
  • Man City have reached the fifth round of the competition in each of their last five seasons, winning it each time as well. The last time they failed to do so was in 2015 when they lost to Middlesborough in the fourth round.
  • Since Manchester City’s shocking 1-0 loss to Wigan Athletic in 2018, City have won all seven of their games against non-Premier League sides with an aggregate score of 26-4.

Player to Watch

Riyad Mahrez

Hoping to make an impression on the manager (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Hoping to make an impression on the manager (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Since a hattrick versus Burnley in gameweek ten of the Premier League, Riyad Mahrez has failed to match those levels and has since lost his place to Phil Foden on the wings. Mahrez has just started one of City’s last seven games but is in line to be given an opportunity versus Cheltenham.

The winger is certainly capable of big goal-scoring hauls and is a player of immense quality. Mahrez is not one to stay quiet for such long periods and given the upcoming run of City’s fixtures, Mahrez could look to gain confidence from this match and hope to get an extended run in the first team again.

Prediction

Cheltenham 0-3 Manchester City

Manchester City are expected to heavily rotate on Saturday. With games coming thick and fast, Pep Guardiola may give minutes to several youngsters. Something that the five substitute rule allows him to do.

However, given the Cityzens’  impressive defensive form this season and Cheltenham’s poor attacking form to go with it, it seems difficult to see the hosts breach the visitors’ defence that has remained solid for the longest of times now.

The potential front three of Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez and Ferran Torres should also make life difficult for the Robins and a comfortable victory for the Cityzens is on the cards.

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