January 22nd is the last time we got to watch the Premier League champions play, but tomorrow Manchester City return to the Etihad for an FA Cup tie against an in-form Fulham side. It will be interesting to see how the newly implemented winter break has impacted the City players, but I am expecting an improvement on the 1-1 draw last time out against Southampton. The Premier League leaders against the Championship leaders was not chosen for television coverage in the United Kingdom.
Pep Guardiola stated in his press conference on Friday afternoon that only Cole Palmer and Gabriel Jesus are doubts for the game on Saturday. So, we can expect an extremely strong side to help the players find important rhythm after 2 weeks away from football. Therefore, those of you that were hoping to see James McAtee get a start after signing his new contract in the week will probably be disappointed.
Zack Steffen will most likely get the nod over Ederson, as he is the cup keeper, and Ederson was not afforded a winter break because he went on international duty with the Brazil national team. I have also predicted Riyad Mahrez to come back into the starting XI after an extremely disappointing AFCON with Algeria, as he looks to continue his scoring form in a City shirt.
Predicted City XI:
Steffen, Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo, Rodri, Silva, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Foden, Grealish.
The last outing for the reigning champions was a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Southampton at St Mary's. Decisions did not go in favour of the away team, but even so, the performance was not to the high standards that we are used to seeing from Guardiola's City. That is the main reason why I think we will see a full-strength XI tomorrow because Guardiola will want to hit the ground running by beating Fulham to rebuild the momentum City will require if they are to retain the title and collect other trophies along the way.
If City are able to beat Fulham on Saturday, they will go into the 5th Round of the FA Cup. However, it will not be an easy game as Fulham are flying at the moment and are sat 5 points clear at the top of the Championship. It will be an exciting game, making it even more baffling why it was not selected to be broadcasted in the UK...
I expect the reigning champions to be really up for this game, as it presents an opportunity to reassert some authority and remind other teams that the Southampton result was simply a blip. Hopefully, the performance on Saturday mirrors the 1-0 victory against Chelsea, rather than the 1-1 draw against Southampton.
I have predicted Jack Grealish and Phil Foden to keep their place in the side after their polarising performances against Southampton. Jack Grealish was impressive against Southampton, and I felt that he took up more threatening positions and looked to hurt the defence at most opportunities. However, Phil Foden had a poor game at St Mary's and so it will be really interesting, and important, to see how he performs against Fulham – if City are going to win more trophies this season, they need an inform Phil Foden.
Referee: Jarred Gillett
Assistants: Lee Betts, Richard West
Fourth Official: Martin Atkinson
VAR: Lee Mason
Assistant VAR: Darren Cann
Fulham are currently sat in 1st place in the Championship after having won four in their last five games, with the latest result being a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Blackpool. Not only are they unbeaten in their last five, but they have also scored a ridiculous 23 goals in those 5 games.
Therefore, it will be interesting to see how Fulham set up on Saturday because most sides come to the Etihad and change their game to play a more defensive system. I would imagine that Marco Silva will not do this, as it is a cup game so Fulham have nothing to lose – anticipating an exciting game between two sides that will try and go toe-to-toe with one another.
Mitrovic is the obvious player that the Premier League Champions will need to be wary of, as the Serbian international has scored 28 goals in just 26 Championship games this season. Former blue Tosin Adarabioyo will be looking to impress against his former club.
This will be an exciting contest, and I expect plenty of goals to be scored. However, I believe Pep's side will start this period of the season with a win. I predict a 4-1 victory with Kevin De Bruyne, Cancelo and Mahrez (x2) scoring the goals.
Written by: @benking200012
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