And also…a little moan. It might be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ but I simply cannot recall the last time we drew a team in the F.A. Cup from the 3rd tier of English football or lower. Nearly every time it’s a Championship or Premier League side for some, annoying reason.
And even if it does turn out that we drew a League 1 (or lower) side in the last 10 years then I bet we’ve only done so twice in the last 2 decades.
I’ll move on…
Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.
If I can be so bold, I have been fairly accurate of late with 9s, 10s and even the whole 11 correct in my predicted line-ups. However, I could blow that fine form right out of the water today.
I think there will be changes and although we’ve not exactly had a cram-packed January schedule, I do believe our manager will use this opportunity to rest some. To what degree Pep will do that though does hang a big question mark up in the air and this is where I might be wide of the mark. Regardless, my best guess is…
Willy to get his usual cup appearance between the sticks.
It’s anyone’s guess at left-back these days – I’m going for Aleks for this one and on the opposite flank of the defence, Bacary. In between those is likely to be Nicholas & John.
Fabian to get a holding midfield starting role? I’d say so…and likely to be joined by the returning [from a 4-match suspension] Fernandinho; who should be given reign to play slightly more advanced when play allows. I think we’ll also see rare starts from both Nolito & Jesus on the wings, which should add some ‘zip’ to our attacking play / breaks. And then…
…could we see ‘new man’ Gabriel and ‘our man Serg’ up front together? I think Pep is itching to try this out and will use this fixture to experiment with that; with the Brazilian perhaps floating around left to right and attacking from slightly deeper than his Argentine partner.
Angus to get a rare bench spot as back-up to Willy; Gael & “ready to go again” Vinny the defensive options from the side. Young Aleix likely to get a place in ‘the 7’ with very capable ‘game changers’ Kevin, Raheem & Kelechi there in case needed to rescue the game for us (although Nolito, Navas, Jesus & Sergio should have it in them to cause some considerable damage to an often-fragile Palace defence).
Notable absences: Outfield player with gloves on (not selected), Pablo Zabaleta (not selected / rested), Fernando (not selected), Ilkay Gundogan (injured for rest of season), Leroy Sane (not selected / rested), David Silva (not selected / rested) and Yaya Toure (not selected / rested).
Do I agree with Pep’s (predicted) line-up?
There is a danger that the home side could swamp the midfield with 5 or even 6 at times and, therefore, Fabian Delph & Fernandinho could find themselves a little overrun; leaving our front two either frustrated and lacking supply or having to come back deep to help reclaim the ball. Could happen.
I’d like better options for the left-back of course…and it has been rumoured that Fabian could fill this slot from time to time this season IF we don’t sign a left-back in the next few days and IF the England man can stay fit – he has played there before for both Leeds United & Aston Villa we are informed.
But if our Spanish boss goes with this set up and personnel then I’m fairly happy. It’s a system that screams ‘pacey, potentially devastating counter attacks’ - solid enough with a better keeper (in my opinion), a ‘back 4’, two midfielders with energy and the ability to defend from the middle and then the pace & threat of Nolito, Navas, Jesus & Aguero.
I also think it’ll be that sort of game from both sides – slightly cautious and defending in numbers and then bombing forward with direct pace whenever opportunities arise.
Result? Well they’re just bobbins at the moment and, for the most part, we’re on a fairly decent run of “only” losing 3 games in the last 10 in all competitions…although we’ve “only” actually won 5 of those and have shipped-in 12 goals in that time. Far better form than today’s hosts but not great for a talent-packed team lead by one Pep Guardiola.
In addition to that, we HAVE already beaten them at Selhurst Park and, so, we should kill ‘em…...right?
Well before you answer there are some other factors to consider:
- Sam’s “saviour magic” [at taking over struggling, Premier League clubs] may not have ‘kicked in’ quite just yet but this fella has an uncanny knack, sometimes, of upsetting ‘the flow’. He’s got a nasty habit of pulling something out of various (very large if they are his) hats in order to upset the odds.
- This is the F.A. Cup we’re talking about – the ‘great leveller’. Anything can - and probably will - happen this afternoon in this competition.
- And then we have the fact that someone at Manchester City recently went into a drawer or cupboard in one of the many rooms at Manchester City Football Club; found our old “Great Unpredictables” tag, dusted it down and firmly attached it to our fairly new, club badge. Yeah…cheers for that. Proof of that is in the afore mentioned 10 games, which reads: D L W W W L W W L D. It’s all over the place at the moment and if I was to take it back even further, the picture doesn’t change much; making predicting City’s results as hard as it was to do throughout the 80s, 90s, 00s (and most likely way before and sometime after that too). We’re back (I’m sorry today)!
But even if Pep does rotate it a little for this one, that starting 11 and back-up on the bench should be good enough to see off a Crystal Palace side in AWFUL form; albeit a team who will want to use this round of the cup as a springboard to revive their ailing league campaign.
I think it will be close; I think it might even be a bit scary for us at times. But if Pep does shuffle the system and start Gabriel Jesus with Sergio, then I think we’ll have enough to advance to the 5th round.
I was teetering on the edge of a draw and, therefore, a replay back at our place…but I’ve nudged myself over to a City win.
Expected weather conditions during the game: Unlike Manchester today, it’s fairly pleasant in South London. 9C with a light, South Westerly breeze; some sunshine with just the small chance of a light shower in the second half.