- Bradley Price
Preview: Everything you need to know, Predicted XI – Manchester City vs Sheffield Utd in the FA Cup
Manchester City once again find themselves in Wembley for the 21st time in the last decade. This time they face off against Championship side Sheffield United who currently sit second in the Championship and look almost certain to return to the Premier League next season. City will have the opportunity to compete in the FA Cup final against the winner of Brighton versus Manchester United should they manage to beat the Blades. Kick-off is scheduled for 16.45 (BST) and is available to watch in the UK on ITV1.
Following his injury picked up against Bayern Munich in the Champions League second leg, Nathan Ake is unavailable after suffering what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Pep Guardiola said in his press conference earlier today that Ake is "not ready for tomorrow", but he doesn't "know the damage" as of yet.
However, Phil Foden has continued to train following his surgery and will likely be in contention to play tomorrow, with Guardiola stating: "Every day that passes, he'll be better". The rest of the squad is otherwise fully fit.
Midweek's draw versus Bayern continues City's unbeaten streak and was enough, thanks to the efforts in the first leg, to grant City a place in this season's Champions League semi-finals, but this result seems to have come at the price of physical fatigue. The Catalan stated that after the game, "they couldn't even celebrate because they were so tired", which would suggest the need to rotate the squad going into the weekend game.
Guardiola's major decision for this game will be a matter of how much to rotate the team going into the semi-final. In the past, this fixture has often been one that City have found themselves stumbling with as it always follows the second leg of the Champions League quarter-finals. Heavy rotation has often been seen for this fixture, with Guardiola stating that "every season I have the feeling we're not physically ready" due to how physically demanding the Champions League always is.
In the game against Leicester last weekend, thanks to an early lead, many key players were able to be granted some additional rest time. This, City will hope, may be able to negate some of the built-up fatigue players have had at this point in the season in the past few years. It is, however, likely that Pep will decide to start with a heavily rotated squad and substitute in some of the bigger names towards the end of the game if he feels it necessary.
Ortega; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Lewis; Phillips, Foden, Gundogan; Mahrez, Alvarez, Grealish
Sheffield United sit second in the Championship, with promotion back to the Premier League looking all but guaranteed for the Blades. With four wins and one loss – to top-of-the-table Burnley – they find themselves in a period of great form under Paul Heckingbottom's management.
In the Championship, Sheffield United boast 25 wins from 42 games so far, along with seven draws and ten defeats, netting them an impressive 82 points and a comfortable seven-point lead above third-placed Luton Town, who have also played an extra game.
Sheffield United boast the third-best goal difference in the league at +29, having scored 65 goals and only conceding 36 goals across the 42 games. This leaves them only behind league leaders Burnley (+48) and free-firing Middlesbrough (+30).
An interesting point to note going into this game is the City youngsters currently on loan to Sheffield United, who have been in fine form this season. James McAtee has made 39 appearances, scoring eight goals and assisting four more from midfield, while Tommy Doyle has also made 34 appearances, scoring four goals and assisting six more, also from midfield.
City will be happy with how their loanees have developed this year, with both having key parts in Sheffield United's season, but due to rules from the FA, neither player will be allowed to feature against their parent club when the two face off tomorrow.
City have an extensive past with the Blades; the most recent meeting between the two sides came in the 2020/21 Premier League season on the 30th January 2021, with the game ending 1-0 in City's favour thanks to a Gabriel Jesus goal. City have actually won four of the last five meetings against the Blades with an aggregate score of 6-2 in City's favour.
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Assistants: Lee Betts & Darren Cann
Fourth Official: Jarred Gillett
VAR: Tony Harrington
Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis
Written by: @BPFoden_
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