Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has indicated that the game against Newcastle United in the FA Cup is the most important since the return to action.
Whilst Manchester City fans may naturally fear the propsect of playing so soon after the Chelsea defeat, the prospect of Newcastle away surely will not prove too daunting? Surely?
However, we know our City team have a brittle under carriage and are susceptible to counter attacks, especially those inflicted with speed. We also know we have had a tendency this season to not always take our chances.
Both these facts combine to give Newcastle hope and confidence in pulling off a cup upset. In truth they are a workmanlike side, but any side working hard together can beat class which is not working hard.
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In Allen Saint-Maximin they have a player capable of causing us difficulty. I can close my eyes and see him bearing down upon Ederson with scattered defenders in his wake.
Putting nightmares aside is exactly what City must do to win through to the next round. We must find a way to power through any self doubts and take control of this match early.
Typically since the restart, games have started slow but it will be important for City to come out quickly and seize the initiative. Newcastle looked lethargic in their last outing and early effort could see the game over quickly as a contest.
City will face sterner tests ahead, but if we are to progress in remaining Cup competitions then we will have to lift our performances following setbacks.
Pep Guardiola has almost a fully fit squad with John Stones and Claudio Bravo both training. Phil Foden will undergo a late fitness test and we all will hope Kevin De Bruyne has run off any lingering soreness from the Chelsea game.
Personally I hope this is the game where we revert to a combination of 2017/18 attacking wingers with Sterling on the right and Sane on the left, however I suspect we will be in for a tighter midfield.
Gabriel Jesus will most likely be joined by Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez in attack. Whether Pep starts with Ilkay Gundogan or Rodri is anyone’s guess. This is a game where accurate fast movement and passing is likely to be important, and on that basis I would choose Ilkay.
I hope we see Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne combining again to drive the team forwards.
If Pep picks his best combination in defence then we should see Benjamin Mendy, Aymeric Laporte, Eric Garcia and Kyle Walker with Ederson socially distanced from any attackers.
It will be important for City to brush away the cobwebs of defeat and make a statement about the rest of the season. I can see no reason to expect anything other than an exciting victory.