Pep Guardiola’s turn. “We will try to beat them … a team 12 games unbeaten … that’s it The FA Cup away, it’s hard … every player wants to play, but everybody has to be there … Kalvin Phillips should try to be himself, he’s trying to understand what we want to do, he comes from a different reality … hopefully he can be himself and make a good performance … we weren’t ourselves (when we were knocked out of the League Cup by Southampton) so we’ll try to be ourselves, simple as that.”
Nigel Pearson talks to HTV West. “It’s an interesting game for us … we’ve been working really hard to get our form back in the league … more consistent … we’ve had a good couple of months in that regard … the cup run has been an integral part of that shift in form … playing against one of the best sides in the world is a reward for the players … our collective drive and work rate shines through … we’ve got some good players … we’ll probably have some opportunities but against better sides you have to convert them when they come, because they probably don’t come with the frequency that they would in the Championship … we have to be at our best … we recognize the quality we are playing against, but I want our player to play with a freedom to be themselves and express themselves.”
Harlech ITV, who broadcast this game in the UK, Manchester City’s bench is worth £340 million. That might go some way to explaining why Joe Pearson has emailed in to predict: “This is going to be a rout. There’s no such thing as the magic of the cup. Why watch this and hope the Electric Horses will triumph over the Great White? I don’t need that kind of soul destroying content so i’ll probably watch Fulham v Leeds.”
Jeff Sax adds: “Why isn’t Brighton-Stoke covered?”
Twenty minutes before kick-off, and the tension is palpable.
Bristol City, on a 12-game unbeaten run, are in If It Ain’t Broke mode. They make just one change to the starting XI that was withdrawn after the 1-0 win over Hull City on Saturday. Nahki Wells replaces cup-bound midfielder Anis Mehmeti, who has already featured for Wycombe Wanderers in this season’s competition.
Manchester City make five changes in the wake of their 4-1 debut against Bournemouth on Saturday night. Kevin de Bruyne, Kalvin Phillips, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and goalkeeper Stefan Ortega come in for Erling Haaland, Jack Grealish, Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and Ederson, who all drop to the bench. Haaland will no doubt be itching to get on and add to his tally 33 goals in 33 games (!) so far this season.
Bristol City: O’Leary, Tanner, Vyner, Kalas, Pring, James, Williams. Sykes, Scott, Bell, Wells.
Subs: Haikin, DaSilva, Wilson, King, Taylor-Clarke, Morrison, Weimann, Thomas, Francois.
Manchester United: Ortega Moreno, Lewis, Akanji, Dias, Ake, Phillips, De Bruyne, Silva, Mahrez, Foden, Alvarez.
Subs: Ederson, Walker, Gundogan, Haaland, Grealish, Rodrigo, Gomez, Perrone, Palmer.
Bristol City have reached the FA Cup final just once, back in 1909, when they lost to a Manchester United side starring Billy Meredith. Manchester City however, have won the famous old trophy six times, the last following a record 6-0 rout of Watford in the 2019 showpiece. This is David vs Goliath alright.
But that’s what the FA Cup is all about. Bristol City hope to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 1974, and their dream of doing so is not so left-field as to require filing under the ‘pipe’. They are 12 unbeaten in all competitions, for starters. They also gave Pep Guardiola’s side a proper run in the 2018 League Cup semis: Manchester City needed a last-minute Sergio Aguero goal to win the first leg at the Etihad, while in the second Bristol City almost completed a three-goal comeback. to force extra time. And City and Pep also have FA Cup fifth-round scars: third-tier Wigan knocked them out at this stage back in 2018.
You’d still back the treble-chasing Citizens to win tonight, even if they field a second-string starting XI with upcoming Premier League and Champions League tests in mind. But it’s sure to be one heck of an atmosphere at Ashton Gate tonight, and magic often happens under the lights The FA Cup. Kick-off is at 20:00, and there will be extra time and penalties if necessary. It’s on!