Manchester City’s quest for an unprecedented quadruple rolls on as they shift their focus from the Champions League to the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup as they travel to the South of Wales to play Championship side Swansea City.
Competition: FA Cup – Quarter Finals
Opponent: Swansea City (The Swans)
Kickoff Time: Saturday, March 16th – 13:20 (EST), 17:20 (England) Liberty Stadium
Odds (via Bovada): Manchester City (-700), Swansea (+1900), DRAW (+750)
In the midst of three competitions they are still fighting in, City look to cap off a successful week as they look to progress to the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Manchester City’s hectic schedule comes to a brief pause as they go on an international break after this game and don’t resume play again until March 30th when they play Fulham in the Premier League. Add that to the fact that there are no longer replays at this stage of the FA Cup and City should be looking to give it their all with the limited amount of healthy players they have to move past Swansea and into the Fa Cup semis.
Swansea City are one year removed from Premier League relegation where they finished just 3 points off of safety. Based out of South Wales, they’re a team currently sitting 15th out of 24 in the Championship. While they are not in the top half of the table, Swansea have some exciting prospects in their side and when they can get it going from an offensive standpoint, they’re a dangerous side.
Up front Swansea are lead by 22 year old Oliver McBurnie. A representative of Scotland at the national level, he has an impressive tally of 16 goals and 4 assists in the Championship spanning 29 games played. McBurnie is an all around player who is capable of being a clinical finisher but also is great in the build-up with his passing in attack as well as his ability to backtrack and do his defensive duties (at 6 foot 2, he sounds like the perfect second option for a Pep striker…). With Wilfried Bony playing in Qatar on-loan (all-time random move), McBurnie has essentially given Swansea the ability to move past the aging Bony and bring forward Oliver’s youth and talent which he has clearly displayed throughout the season in making a name for himself.
Sitting just behind McBurnie is former City youth player Bersant Celina. The young player from Kosovo, Celina has played a key role for the Swans throughout the seasons. With 30 appearances in the league so far, Celina has 5 goals and 4 assists. While it feels like all of Celina’s goals seem to be absolute rockets from outside the box, he fell victim to a bit of the opposite this week. Now, seeing that penalty fluff has me fully prepared for a scorcher from 30+ yards out Saturday when he faces his former club, but nonetheless he’s a player who’s capable of hurting you all over the pitch. He’s very technically gifted as a dribbler, hard to dispossess and ultimately can pick out a pass from anywhere on the pitch. While Swansea will likely opt for a defensive approach when they host City Saturday, Celina will be one of the key players the blues will have to focus on when Swansea do attack as he can split any defense with his quality.
Injuries to note for the Swans include the likes of Leroy Fer (hamstring), Martin Olsson (achilles) and Joe Rodon (coming back from a broken foot) on the sideline. Key defender Rodon will potentially be available for this match and will likely be needed against the City attack. With the Swans appearing safe of relegation, they’ll likely field a stronger side to match City’s dedication in their approach to win the FA Cup this season.
City are still battling their fair share of injuries with Pep declaring Stones, De Bruyne, Fernandinho and Kompany all out, while it sounds like Mendy also isn’t ready (yawn). However, City will likely still go for a strong lineup as they benefit from two weeks between this matchup and their next match.
In net, Pep has preferred his #1 to be Ederson for the FA Cup, as it looks like (barring injury) we won’t be seeing Muric again this season.
In defense, there’s a less than steady central defender list but I could see Pep still giving Laporte the start (and subbed off at halftime) to get some minutes in his legs before the break alongside Otamendi with Eric Garcia possibly on the bench for support. At full-back, I’m opting for Danilo on the right who put in an assured display at CB Tuesday against Schalke and will be looking for more minutes as the schedule continues to pile up. On the left, I can’t see anyone but Zinchenko here. The young Ukranian seems to be putting in a MOTM performance every time he’s played in the last month. While Fabian Delph came back from exile in the midweek match, I think he’ll have to resort to the bench Saturday.
In midfield, Pep has limited options with the likes of KDB and Fernandinho injured and David Silva having played a lot of minutes this season. With that said, I see a trio of Gundogan, Bernardo and Foden which should provide an incredible amount of creativity to try and pry open the Swansea defense. If City are able to open this one up early, I could see Delph giving Gundogan a break in midfield in the second half.
Up front, I’d like to see Aguero and Sterling get a deserved rest. With that said, it feels like a game where Mahrez will come in alongside Sané which will be a nice balance of power and finesse as they look to feed in Jesus up front who’s looking to get a run of games after injury.
FA Cup away games are always tricky – and Swansea are a side that City are familiar with. With the international break coming up and being in a good run of form, I think City will walk away victorious 2-0 with this one.