Manchester City are through to the fifth round of the FA Cup after an emphatic 4-0 win against Scott Parker’s Fulham. Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and a Gabriel Jesus brace ensured City’s quest for a cup treble continued in a season that could still be an impressive one.
Despite being 16 points behind leaders Liverpool in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City find themselves in good stead in the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and the Champions League, a trophy that has eluded the blue side of Manchester.
Although the Premier League title is likely out of their reach, Guardiola will be eager to retain their FA Cup title, the trophy they lifted at Wembley in May 2019 after putting six goals past Watford in a one-sided final.
Guardiola made eight changes coming into this FA Cup fixture which shows that players are now returning. City have been hard done by with injuries this season but with Laporte & Co. slowly returning to fitness, their return couldn’t have come at a better time with the club still in three cup competitions.
Already 3-1 up against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup semi-final, City find themselves in a good position to also retain the league cup, after beating Chelsea on penalties last season. Should City advance, which seems more than likely, they’ll play one of Leicester City or Aston Villa in the final.
Where City’s toughest task lays is in the Champions League knockout stages. A relatively easy group stages saw them finish top of their group, which included Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb.
However, whilst it’s all well and good finishing top of your Champions League group, they still managed to draw an elite European club in Real Madrid, a side that won three consecutive Champions League titles before Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur in last year’s enticing event.
Manchester City were knocked out by Real Madrid in the 2015/16 Champions League but fans will be hoping for a better result this time under Pep Guardiola. Get past the Spanish side, who aren’t in the best of form, and City would put themselves in a good position to put together a run for the Champions League.
But as we all know too well in football, coaches remain focussed on the next game and that one only. Manchester City played well against an aggressive Fulham side, who could have caused Guardiola’s side more problems if Tim Ream didn’t get sent off after six minutes.
Motivation and chemistry also seems to be high in the Manchester City camp at this stage of the season whilst Guardiola has urged fans to show up at the Etihad for the Manchester derby, following a less than impressive attendance against Fulham on Sunday.
“After one or two minutes, I thought it would be a tough tough game. They were incredibly aggressive up front. They are a team with a lot of courage but after the red card it was different. Even then they tried to play,” said Guardiola post-match.
“Motivation was right. After 2-0, we missed a little bit some of the movements because they defended well and high. Hopefully in the next game against [Manchester] United, our fans can come and make the stadium full.
“The determination was there and we will fight to win each competition. Next is United and a chance to get to the final. Always we score and have the ability to score. The problem has been conceding goals, but it’s always good to score.”
Manchester City are the first European club this season to score 100 goals.
A bonus for Guardiola was the return to Aymeric Laporte, a player who is so important to this Manchester City team from a defensive standpoint, something I touched upon in my previous Man City column regarding leadership following the departure of Vincent Kompany.
“He [Laporte] had some fatigue, which is normal after four or five months,” said Guardiola. “We are not going to take risks. After four months, he played 75 minutes and we’ll see. Until we feel he is ready, he won’t play. If he can play against [Manchester] United, he can play.”
City will find out their fifth-round opponents when the draw takes place prior to Arsenal’s fourth-round game against Bournemouth.
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