This is a post by Will Harrison.
Although the Premier League title now seems out of reach with Chelsea storming ahead at the summit, Manchester City still have a chance of claiming silverware in both the FA Cup and the Champions League. A domestic cup win looks extremely likely if City can carry on recent form, and if Pep Guardiola lifts a trophy in his debut campaign it will give him a much-needed confidence boost ahead of next season.
After swatting Huddersfield Town aside 5-1 at the Etihad Stadium in the FA Cup Fifth Round, City were rewarded with a Quarter-final tie against struggling Middlesbrough. The Citizens will have to make the journey to the Riverside Stadium, but breaking down the side that are now languishing in the Premier League’s bottom three shouldn’t be a problem for Pep’s overwhelming attacking force. Because of this relatively kind draw, City are now leading the FA Cup betting at 3/1 to claim the trophy ahead of their Quarter-final fixture.
Guardiola’s reign in Manchester started off brilliantly, but his side suffered an almighty slump around the turn of the year which caused them to slip out of contention for the title. Harrowing losses to Chelsea, Leicester City, Liverpool, and Everton left the manager visibly shattered. In some interviews, he looked to be on the verge of tears. Thankfully, February has seen a recent upturn in form and the former Bayern Munich boss now seems to have a clear idea about his favoured line-up.
Omitting Sergio Aguero from the starting XI upon Gabriel Jesus’s arrival in England could have been a harsh yet successful tactic by the two-time Champions League winning manager. When the Argentine was reinstated at the forefront of the attack he scored five times in four matches across all competitions. It is clear that Guardiola has struck upon a working system with Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling lining up either side of Aguero in a pacey and prolific front three. There had previously been speculation over Aguero’s future at the Etihad but if he carries on in this fashion Guardiola will not have a choice but to keep him.
The other FA Cup Quarter-final ties will give City some hope that they can go all the way. The biggest draw was Chelsea v Manchester United, meaning one of the other favourites will be eliminated before the Semi-finals. Arsenal will be expected to beat Lincoln City, but due to the form they have been in lately would not represent a tough challenge for City should the two sides meet in the next round. Tottenham Hotspur face Millwall, and although the Lions have been exceptional in the cup this season, Mauricio Pochettino’s high-flyers should have too much class for them on their own soil. An encounter with Spurs is arguably the toughest draw City could get and Guardiola will be hoping to avoid them.
Guardiola has won at least one trophy in every season of his glittering managerial career. He must aim to claim silverware in this campaign to give him the confidence required to take City to higher levels next term. The FA Cup represents the simplest path to that goal.