Four topics for discussion ahead of Sunday’s tie in South Wales…
1 A different challenge?
While there has been much talk about teams defending in numbers against the Blues and, more recently, attacking City and pressing high, the FA Cup 4th round at Cardiff City represents a different challenge.
While our previous Championship opponents this season – Wolves and Bristol City – are both expansive, attacking teams, Cardiff offered a different threat.
Neil Warnock’s side are more direct, focus on set-pieces and winning the second ball – they are also more physical that Wolves and Bristol City and that’s not something the Blues have faced many times this season.
The Bluebirds, backed by a partisan home crowd and the energetic instructions from Warnock, will look to unsettle City, particularly from corners and set-pieces.
This style has worked well for them this campaign, so expect no different on Sunday.
2 Kompany return?
Could this be the perfect time for Vincent Kompany to return to first-team duty?
The Belgian has been absent since the Blues beat Newcastle 1-0 just after Christmas and with a more direct approach likely from the Bluebirds, the skipper could be ideal for this sort of challenge.
If he does play, let’s hope it’s the start of a run of games for our luckless captain who deserves a run of good fortune on the pitch.
3 Keeping the dream alive?
While the talk of winning four trophies has been largely the domain of inquisitive journalists this season, it would be foolhardy to think that the City players aren’t thinking it is at least a possibility.
A 12-point lead in the Premier League means the Blues’ title challenge is going as well as it could go at present, and the Champions League Round of 16 is still to come.
A Carabao Cup final berth has already been booked and beating Cardiff would put City in the last 16 of the FA Cup.
This will be a very tricky game and the Blues may well need to weather the storm in the first 20 minutes or so – what’s not needed is a replay and another fixture to add to an already crowded schedule.
4 Warnock v Pep
Two contrasting managerial styles, but there will be plenty of respect on the touchline at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Warnock called Pep’s appearance at the Mansfield Town v Cardiff City FA Cup third round replay “a touch of class” and will relish pitting his wits against the City boss and knows what a fillip his team’s promotion bid would get if they dump the Blues out of the competition.
Warnock, like Pep, lives every minute of every game, so expect both technical areas to be lively to say the least…