Manchester City know that a Champions League tie with Barcelona is looming and given the recent encouraging events, the Citizens can just about dare dream. But manager Manuel Pellegrini has made it clear that they are focusing on the FA Cup for now.
For any Championship side, an FA cup quarter–final tie against a team of Manchester City’s class should be enough motivation. Holders Wigan Athletic can draw a lot of encouragement from their unlikely victory in the final last season against the same side.
Pellegrini will not have the services of Matija Nastasic, who is still recovering from a knee injury, or Stevan Jovetic, who is still a week away from fitness due to hamstring injury.
But the City boss should have enough in his squad to be comfortable going into the game. Costel Pantilimon should continue in goal, as he has in all domestic games prior to this one. Probably with the midweek game in mind, Aleksandar Kolarov should join Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis and Pablo Zabaleta in defence, getting the nod ahead of Gael Clichy.
Going forward, Pellegrini should go with his regular 4-4-2 to take the game to the Latics. Fernandinho can anchor and let Yaya Toure play his usual box-to–box role. David Silva and Jesus Navas have provided a scintillating mix of pace and creativity on the flanks, so they should be most effective against visitors that are likely to defend deep.
Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero should partner up front.
The Wigan manager Uwe Rosler, a former Manchester City player, will have his hands full in trying to mastermind his former club’s FA cup downfall.
Unlike Pellegrini, Rosler is without a couple key players he would have been counting on. Shaun Maloney, Scott Carson, Nick Powell and Ben Watson are all absent due to various injuries, while Ryan Tunnicliffe, Rob Kiernan and Martin Waghorn are all cup-tied.
City are widely expected to win this game, so Wigan will just try to be solid. Rosler is likely to deploy a compact five-man midfield. He should be aware of City’s danger when wingers Navas and Silva tuck in and allow full-backs to make overlapping runs. The Citizens have deployed this tactic to a great effect this season, partly because it suites Kolarov and Zabaleta, who are both dangerous going forward.
Callum McManaman and James McClean are going to have the crucial jobs of tracking back with these full backs and attempting to minimise their influence in the game.
City also have an additional threat from the midfield runs of Toure, so the likely central midfield trio of James McArthur, Chris McCann and Jordi Gomez need to be vigilant.
When any team visits the Etihad this season they always know what to expect: a rampant and ruthless City side. The main hope then for Wigan is to defend well, to frustrate the home team, then eventually pinch something from their defensive flaws.
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