The magic of the FA Cup is truly real. Pep Guardiola’s men travel to South Wales to face League One side Newport County in the fifth round of Europe’s oldest cup competition.
Newport boss Mike Flynn has claimed that beating the Premier League champions and current leaders will be the biggest shock in FA Cup history because of the massive footballing gulf between the two sides. The South Welsh side have slipped to 15th in League One after only managing two wins since November.
Pep Guardiola, on the other hand, has lauded Flynn and his side for their remarkable efforts in the League Cup so far. The Manchester City chief, in his press conference, seemed well-educated with his opponent’s tactics and gameplay, having watched their stunning victories against Premier League heavyweights Leicester City and Championship big-boys Middlesbrough in the previous rounds.
Manchester City, in recent weeks, have found their mojo back with back-to-back-to-back statement wins against Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea in a space of just seven days. Those three victories suddenly changed the entire outlook of the Premier League table with City eclipsing Liverpool to first place on goal-difference after being 7 points adrift at the beginning of January.
City are still alive in all four competitions this season. Though the quadruple-talk is often dismissed by Guardiola, City are in a terrific position to challenge for all four trophies no matter how impossible it might seem.
Before the trio of Premier League matches, City dismantled Burnley in a 5-0 FA Cup fifth-round victory. Newport fans, instead of worrying about Manchester City’s world-class abilities, are relishing the visit of the Champions as it might just be the biggest game some of their players might walk out to. The last encounter between these two sides was in 1962 in the third round of the League Cup.
Guardiola was also asked about the substandard quality of the Rodney Parade pitch to which he reacted by saying that his team will need to adapt to the conditions. Pep also highlighted the bad Wembley pitch on which they had to play against Spurs earlier this season because of the NFL games scheduled closely.
Guardiola, however, must definitely be worried about how the pitch can affect his players. This will certainly play a role in his team selection with a crucial Champions League Round of 16 tie and the Carabao Cup final looming on the horizon.
With many of the Premier League teams bowing out of the FA Cup this season, and Chelsea and United facing off on Monday, City have a huge chance to get their hands on England’s most historic competition for the first time since their 2011 triumph.