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Talking Points: Opportunity knocks for City starlets?

Team selection, Kelechi Iheanacho and cup form all under the microscope ahead of Sunday’s Stamford Bridge showdown.

@markbooth_mcfc picks out seven things to watch in our FA Cup fifth round clash…

Opportunity knocks…

Manuel Pellegrini hinted that he may field a number of youngsters in City’s FA Cup fifth round tie at Stamford Bridge.

The City boss said: “My way is to try and play in every competition with the best team,” he said. “I think the FA Cup is a serious competition and not a competition you can throw away.

“At this moment, with so many injured players and the chance to try and get to the Champions League quarter-final for the first time, I think it’s a case where we are going to prioritise.”

Angelino, Brandon Barker, Bersant Celina, Aleix Garcia and Manu Garcia have all been in and around the first-team setup and will be hoping to be involved either from the start or from the bench in West London.

A strong Chelsea…

In the last round, Hiddink barely rotated his side, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek the only player in the XI who couldn’t be considered a Premier League regular.

Once again you’d expect the likes of Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Thibault Courtois, Nemanja Matic, Oscar and Cesc Fabregas to all be in the Chelsea starting line-up.

If City do name a young team, as Pellegrini hinted, it would be a test quite unlike any those Academy starlets have ever experienced before.

Sergio Aguero in action against Chelsea

Cometh the hour, cometh The Kid?

Kelechi Iheanacho has scored four goals in his two FA Cup starts this season.

If he’s once again fielded from the first minute, the Nigerian international will hope to maintain his incredible goals-per-minute ratio from his 21 appearances in this, his breakthrough season.

In all competitions, Kelechi has netted a goal every 69.7 minutes so far this campaign.

Up for the cups…

Three of City’s most impressive performances in 2016 have arguably come in the domestic cups.

The wins at Aston Villa and Norwich, as well as the second leg of our Capital One Cup semi-final against Everton, saw the Blues display their very best attacking form.

Following two successive league defeats, will City once again turn in a good performance to progress to the last eight of the FA Cup?


Big week…

Sunday’s game kicks off a three-game run of cup matches in three different competitions, all inside seven days.

City have stayed alive on four fronts longer than anyone else in English football this season – if that’s still the case, and if we’ve put the available first trophy on the table come 6.30pm on Sunday week, we’ll be reflecting on an incredible spell in our 2015/16.

101 Years…

City have only lost one game in the FA Cup to Chelsea out of five meetings and you have to go back as far as 1915 for our last defeat to the West Londoners in this competition.

There have been two famous FA Cup wins in recent times, with Samir Nasri on the scoresheet in both.

In 2013, we faced off against Rafael Benitez’s side at Wembley and reached the FA Cup final with a 2-1 win and we followed it up in Manuel Pellegrini’s first season in charge with a 2-0 triumph at the Etihad to book a place in the last eight.

You can read about more famous FA Cup wins over Chelsea here.


The Hiddink Effect…

Chelsea may not retain the title this season but City will not underestimate Guus Hiddink’s charges.

While City are competing for four trophies, Sunday’s hosts will make a full assault on the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League in the remaining months of the season.

The green shoots of recovery following a tumultuous start to the season have started to sprout under Hiddink’s stewardship, with Chelsea unbeaten in domestic competition since 14 December (12 games).

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When City and Chelsea lock horns at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon, it will be the sixth occasion the teams have met in the world’s oldest domestic cup competition.