Manchester City will begin the defence of their FA Cup title on Saturday evening against League Two side Port Vale. With the Premier League title now looking highly improbable, success in cup competitions such as the FA Cup will be a vital measure of City’s season.
The game on Saturday will begin at 17:31 GMT, one minute later than usual as part of the Football Association's 'Take a minute' initiative - within the 'Heads Up' campaign aimed at raising awareness about the 'importance of looking after our mental health.'
Manchester City will remain without Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte despite the Frenchman playing a small part in first team training. Nicolas Otamendi, who hasn’t played since the defeat to Wolves, also remains sidelined despite Pep Guardiola stating he is 'getting better'. Ederson, who missed the match against Sheffield United due to suspension and then the win over Everton due to illness, is however 'better' and back with the squad.
Port Vale’s long term absentees, Emmanuel Oyeleke and Adam Crookes, will be unavailable but Shaun Brisley and Tom Conlon could feature, after both recovering from injuries and being named substitutes for their draw on Wednesday. There is certainly plenty of anticipation and excitement from the Vale fans and players alike, but surely no more than David Worrall, who is likely to make his 100th appearance for the club.
Head to Head
Port Vale and Manchester City haven’t met in this century, with the last meeting between the two teams in October 1999. City have won 18, lost four and drawn just one game against Port Vale, scoring a total of 57 goals and conceding just 23.
City have in fact lost three of their last five games against Port Vale, but won the only ever FA Cup meeting 2-1 in January 1991. Manchester City had been on a 15-game winning streak against Vale between 1893 and 1996, with the Blues highest win being an 8-1 victory at home in October 1893. But as Pep Guardiola said himself, “it is a knockout game and anything can happen.”
Manchester City come into the game with six wins from their last seven games, with the exception being the 3-2 defeat to Wolves last Friday. However, once again on Saturday they failed to score in the opening 45 minutes, with 14 of City’s last 18 goals scored at the Etihad coming in the second half. Kevin De Bruyne will no doubt be one of several players rested on Saturday, but has 14 assists already this season for the Blues with Riyad Mahrez closely behind with 12.
The visitors, Port Vale sit in 10th position in League Two with just one win from their last six games, having drawn three of their last four matches. Their most recent result was a 1-1 draw to troubled Macclesfield Town on New Year’s Day.
Pep Guardiola and his team have made a rather significant tactical switch in the last two fixtures, opting for a three-at-the-back, followed by either a midfield of four and attack of three, or a midfield of five with two wingbacks and an attack of two.
This new system might be Guardiola’s idea of freshening things up, though the possibility of reverting back to his original 4-3-3 will remain. Port Vale usually approach games with a 4-3-3 formation, however you would have to wonder what the chances are of them going with something a little more defensive against the Premier League champions.
It will be Lee Mason’s 30th FA Cup game and 27th game in-charge of the Blues on Saturday with Nick Hopton and Adrian Waters his assistants, while Sebastian Stockbridge will be the fourth official. As the game is at a Premier League ground, VAR will be in operation and those duties have been given to Mike Dean and Daniel Robathan.
You can follow us for live updates here: @City_Xtra