League Two outfit Swindon Town play hosts to Premier League leaders Manchester City for their FA Cup third-round clash.
Unlike Premier League teams, lower league sides have to work had to get into the third round of the FA Cup. So, when League Two outfit Swindon Town qualified for this stage of the competition, they might have hoped for a less challenging opposition than Manchester City.
Swindon Town had to get past Walsall and then Crewe Alexandra in the earlier rounds to set up a date with Pep Guardiola’s side. For their home crowd, it could be the headline game of the season, and any positive result here would be a treat for their eyes, even if their side scores a goal, for that matter.
Their form hasn’t been great before this blockbuster clash, as Swindon went four games without a win to end 2021. However, they have started the new year with a top draw performance against Northampton Town, beating them 5-2. But, Manchester City will be on a whole new level compared to the opponents they have faced this season.
Manchester City come into this game on the back of an impressive run of 11 consecutive victories in the Premier League. They will have to make this trip without manager Pep Guardiola, who has tested positive for Covid. The Cityzens had to work hard to win their last Premier League outing against Arsenal.
The FA Cup has been the more elusive trophy for the Premier League champions, with the manager winning it just once in his time at the Etihad so far. They will be hoping to address that and go the distance in the ongoing campaign. Manchester City will be expected to win this clash against Swindon, but they will have to guard against complacency when they take the pitch at County Ground.
Team News & Tactics
Swindon’s starting goalkeeper Joe Wollacott will be absent after being called up to Ghana’s squad for the AFCON. In his place, Lewis Ward should get the nod to continue between the sticks, possible for the whole of this month.
Meanwhile, the hosts will also be without French centre-back Mathieu Baudry, who is suffering from a hip problem. They could also be without Jack Payne, who was withdrawn early during Swindon’s win over Northampton Town.
The Robins will be bolstered by the arrival of Jake O’Brien from Crystal Palace on loan, while there could also be a start for Wales international Jonathan Williams. At the weekend, there was also a return from injury for central defender Romoney Crichlow.
Dion Conroy, who will serve the last of his three-match ban, also misses out, with the Manchester City game being the final one of the term. However, Swindon fans will be hoping for a positive performance from Harry McKirdy, as the 24-year-old comes into the clash at the back of scoring four times against Northampton Town.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Ward; Crichlow, Hunt, Odimayo; Hayden, Reed, Gladwin, Grant, Iandolo; McKirdy, Simpson
Pep Guardiola could use this clash as a good opportunity to provide some much-needed game time for his fringe players. The likes of CJ Egan-Riley, Luke Mbete, Cole Palmer, James McAtee and Kayky could all be hoping for chances against the lower league opposition.
Guardiola might be able to oblige those requests here and ideally provide a start to all these starlets. However, he will also have to manage some of his first-team stars without regular game time in recent weeks, such as Kyle Walker, Nathan Ake and Jack Grealish.
So, Guardiola could choose a central defensive partnership of CJ Egan-Riley and John Stones, with Walker and Ake taking up full-back roles on either side. Fernandinho could come back into the side in central midfield, sitting at the base, with Ilkay Gudogan and McAtee on either side of him.
Kayky could get a chance to impress from the right side of the attack, with Palmer likely to play through the middle. Grealish is expected to be the de facto leader in the final third with a role from his preferred left-hand channel.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Steffen; Walker, Stones, Egan-Riley, Ake; McAtee, Fernandinho, Gundogan; Kayky, Palmer, Grealish
- Manchester City have kept a clean sheet in their last three matches against Swindon Town in all competitions.
- Manchester City have won each of their last three games against Swindon Town in all competitions.
- Manchester City have scored at least two goals in their last three matches against Swindon Town in all competitions.
- Manchester City are coming at the back of an 11-game winning streak in the Premier League.
- Swindon Town last met Manchester City back in the Third Round of the FA Cup in 2001/02.
Player to Watch
Owing to off-field problems in recent weeks, Guardiola axed his record signing from the squad to make a point. Despite being slowly integrated back into the team, it’s now Grealish’s turn to prove his worth to his boss. Adapting to the Catalan’s tactics have been the underlying excuse until now, but it is time for the England international to step up and live up to his £100 million price tag.
More than anything, it’s about how Grealish can lead a possible young group of attackers in this clash. In doing so, he also needs to contribute with goals and assists to strengthen his position within Guardiola’s plans. The Swindon clash could be a fantastic opportunity and the attacker to make the best out of it.
Swindon Town 0-4 Manchester City
Scoring four or five goals past Premier League opposition has not proved difficult for Manchester City this term, and it should be much easier to do so against League Two teams. Yet, considering that Pep Guardiola is likely to field many youngsters, they might not be at their free-flowing best on Friday. However, they will still prove to be too strong for their hosts.
Swindon Town may have been hoping for a different kind of opposition here but will get to see first-hand what Manchester City are all about. There’s only one way this tie can go, as we expect Manchester City to score at least four goals or even more.