Tuesday 22 October 2019

Pep warns against City complacency with elusive cup on line

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Adam Lanigan

Forget about stepping out in a Wembley cup final or on the big stage in the Champions League if you fail to apply themselves away to humble Newport County this evening.

That is the message from manager Pep Guardiola as his team prepare to take on the side currently 15th in League Two for a place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

City remain alive in all four competitions and still in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, so a match against opponents 82 places below them on the English football ladder should represent the easiest assignment left of the season.

But any City player displaying that attitude could be in for a rude awakening, especially if they don't much care for the pitch at Rodney Parade.

Battered by wind, rain and two rugby union clubs as well as the Exiles, it does not allow for the type of football that Guardiola's men practise every week in the Premier League.

With a Champions League tie away to Schalke on Wednesday and the League Cup final against Chelsea a week tomorrow, some may take one look down and think about self-preservation.

But if Guardiola gets a whiff of that attitude from any of his squad, then they will find themselves on the sidelines for the high-octane matches that follow.

"I expect the best performance by each one of them," he said. "Focus on all the details. That is the best way to prepare for Schalke and the League Cup final.

"When you want to play a final in one week, or a tough game in the Champions League, the best way to prepare is to make a good game.

"The players have to risk. It would be a problem for them if they don't risk and play like a professional to win the game.

"If they think about the next game, maybe the next one they stay here and they don't travel to Germany.

"In those situations, I'm not a sweet guy. They have to take it seriously and play the game like it deserves.

"The cup competition is so nice, we got to the semi-finals in the first season, but last season we were out at this stage so we want to go through."

Remarkably the FA Cup is the only competition missing from Guardiola's glittering CV for which he has competed and the born winner that he is would dearly love to address that, especially after their shock loss to League One Wigan in the fifth round 12 months ago.

It is a mark of how he views it that he has picked a strong team for both previous rounds against Rotherham and Burnley, even given City's packed schedule, and he will do the same again in South Wales.

Newport are 82 places below Premier League leaders City in the football pyramid, but manager Michael Flynn believes his League Two underdogs can add Guardiola's high-fliers to the list of recent Rodney Parade victims that includes Leeds, Leicester and Middlesbrough.

"If we win this, whether it's extra time or penalties and I don't care how we do it, it will be the biggest shock in FA Cup history," Flynn said at his pre-match press conference.

"I say that with the biggest respect to other big giant-killings.

"My reasons for that are because of the sheer gulf in finances, the quality of the players Man City have, the level they are playing at, and that they have the best manager in the world right now.

"So for those reasons it will be the biggest shock the FA Cup has ever seen."

Newport have won only twice in the league since the end of November, a run which has seen the Exiles slump out of down to 15th place.

Yet in that time Newport have beaten Wrexham, Leicester and Middlesbrough in the FA Cup to reach the fifth round for the first time in 70 years.

"Of course there is," Flynn replied when asked if a shock to end City's hopes of winning an unprecedented quadruple was possible.

"Otherwise I'd just turn up, give them the game, say 'let's shake hands' and walk off.

"We won't just be sitting back, no chance. I would rather get thumped doing it properly than losing 1-0 with no ambition." (© Independent News Service)

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