Manchester City return to action on Saturday when they welcome high-flying Championship side Fulham in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

In a battle between the current leaders of the first and second tiers of English football, Manchester City and Fulham lock horns at the Etihad Stadium in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

Manchester City have been on an impeccable run of form this term and are by far the best team in the country. However, their incredible 12-game winning streak came to an unexpected end before the Premier League’s winter break when the Citizens were held to a 1-1 draw by Southampton. However, they still hold a significant nine-point lead over Liverpool, having played a game more.

Despite dropping two points against Southampton in their most recent game, it would take a major collapse for the Citizens to lose their hold on the Premier League title. Of all the domestic competitions Pep Guardiola has won since he arrived in England, the FA Cup has caused him the most trouble. The Spaniard has only won the competition once, back in 2019.

Having already exited the EFL Cup, perhaps the Sky Blues will devote more attention to the FA Cup this season, where they made light work of Swindon Town in their most recent match in the competition. However, they face a much bigger task against Marco Silva’s free-scoring Fulham, who enter Saturday’s game fresh off the back of having their five-game winning streak snapped by a 1-1 draw with Blackpool.

Marco Silva’s side are riding high at the top of the pile in the Championship as they seek an instant return to the top flight, and have lost just once in their last 18 games. However, it was a different story for Fulham in the FA Cup, as they needed extra time to get the better of Bristol City and progress to the fourth round.

Manchester City beat Fulham 3-0 the last time they met each other in the Premier League in March 2021. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the FA Cup fourth round encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester City

The hosts head into the game with a relatively clean bill of health, barring a couple of knocks. Riyad Mahrez should be back in contention for Manchester City after being granted a week off following Algeria’s early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations. Brazilian duo Gabriel Jesus and Ederson will have to be assessed after their late return from international duty with Brazil.

Cole Palmer will be pushing to gain some vital minutes under his belt should he shake off a minor knock, and the same goes for Oleksandr Zinchenko, who remains a doubt for the Premier League leaders. It will not be surprising if Pep Guardiola goes with a fairly strong lineup against Fulham, despite the congested fixtures in February.

Zack Steffen should be fine to feature in between the sticks after missing the United States’ most recent fixtures due to a back injury. Meanwhile, Guardiola will line his side up in the 4-3-3 formation and opt for a rotational central defensive pairing of John Stones and Nathan Ake, while Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker are expected to retain their places out wide.

Fernandinho will anchor a strong midfield from his preferred holding defensive midfield role. Ilkay Gundogan will provide attacking thrust with his late runs from midfield, while Bernardo Silva will play a vital role in offering the creativity and relentless pressing.

Mahrez will likely take his spot on the right flank upon his return, while Raheem Sterling offers a pacey option to threaten with runs in behind opponents backlines. Phil Foden will slot into the false nine role to form a free-flowing front-three; the English attacker’s sharp offensive movement and combination play could be essential to breach Marco Silva’s defence.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Steffen; Walker, Stones, Ake, Cancelo; Gundogan, Fernandinho, Silva; Mahrez, Foden, Sterling

homecrowd-formation-QSx73c8xW1SYQc53Zu0J

Fulham

Similar to his counterpart in the Manchester City dugout, Fulham boss Marco Silva has little to no injury concerns, with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Harry Wilson both having recovered from illnesses to make starts against Blackpool, while Ivan Cavaleiro has returned to full fitness following a groin problem. Terence Kongolo is out of contention due to an injury.

As for their transfer business, the Cottagers are set to welcome Liverpool loanee Neco Williams, who could be called straight into the action to make his debut for the club this weekend, given Denis Odoi has already left for Belgian Pro League outfit Club Brugge. Silva will undoubtedly be tempted to play a full-strength lineup against Man City, but will be wary of risking star striker Mitrovic, who is key for their promotion push.

Paulo Gazzaniga will feature in goal, with the Cottagers lining up in a 4-2-3-1 in front of the former Tottenham Hotspur keeper. Tosin Adarabioyo will be eager to impress against his boyhood club, and he will play alongside Michael Hector at the heart of the Fulham backline as they try to maintain a solid defensive shape at the back throughout the game.

Joe Bryan could continue to operate at left-back while new arrival Williams hopes to catch the eye on the other flank as the right-back. Both will likely stay narrow and compact to contain Man City’s buzzing forwards. Harrison Reed and club captain Tom Cairney will once again assume the duties in the midfield double-pivot and will be tasked to keep track of the hosts’ advancing midfielders.

Fabio Carvalho’s deadline day move to Liverpool fell through, but that should not have any lasting effects on the exciting youngster, who will be keen to prove his mettle against Manchester City on Saturday. Harry Wilson and Neeskens Kebano are expected to operate in wide areas, down the right and left flank respectively. Brazilian forward Rodrigo Muniz will get a chance to spearhead the Fulham attack up top should Mitrovic be rested.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Williams, Hector, Adarabioyo, Bryan; Reed, Cairney; Wilson, Carvalho, Kebano; Muniz

homecrowd-formation-m1UjKF4lBNGFFSdWPZGX

 

Key Stats

  • Man City have won their last 11 games against Fulham in all competitions, while they have kept a clean sheet in their last seven home matches against the same opposition.
  • Man City have won 15 of their last 17 matches in the FA Cup.
  • Fulham have been knocked out in the fourth round two FA Cup campaigns in a row, while Man City have never been knocked out earlier than the fifth round under Pep Guardiola.
  • The Cottagers have been irrepressible in the Championship this term, scoring 74 goals (29 more than any other side in the division) while conceding only 26 goals (second-best in the league).
  • The Cottagers have failed to score in 6 of their last 8 FA Cup matches, and it required them extra time to get past Bristol City in the last round of the competition.

Player to Watch

Fabio Carvalho

Embed from Getty Images

Regarded as the most precocious talent in the second tier, Carvalho has taken the Championship by storm and has seven goals and four assists to his name in 18 Championship appearances this season. His vision and ability to think quickly and make unpredictable passes makes him a diamond in the rough. He has been deployed in the number ten role owing to his technical elegance and agility, but his pace, trickery, and ball control enables him to operate out wide if needed.

Liverpool were really close to agreeing on a deal for the forward in the final hours of the January transfer window, only for the move to collapse at the last moment in dramatic circumstances. Nonetheless, given Carvalho’s contract predicament, it seems like a matter of when, and not if, a top-tier club will snap him.

Prediction

Manchester City 3-1 Fulham

Fulham have developed a penchant for scoring goals; Carvalho’s astronomical rise has shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon, while Mitrovic remains unstoppable in front of goal. These positive factors may inspire hope among the Craven Cottage faithful for a famous upset at the Etihad this weekend.

However, the Cottagers will face a stern test up against the defending Premier League champions, who will be eager to rebound from their draw with Southampton. Fulham are in a rich vein of form, but considering Man City’s dominance at home, it would be hard to predict anything other than a comfortable 3-1 home win for the Sky Blues.

Leave A Comment...

*