Rather like a Manchester Piccadilly tannoy announcement it’ll be a case of ‘All Change…’ at the Etihad Stadium as Manchester City seek payback against the upstarts who deprived them of FA Cup Final glory a mere 136 days ago.
Is it me, or am I not alone in feeling that horrible wet May afternoon at Wembley seems an age ago?
Time has healed the wounds and all but banished that nauseous feeling of incredulity, as a totally uninspired City let themselves and their fans down, in the most lopsidedly supported FA Cup finale in recent times.
Bursting with sky blue brethren – the support split had to be at least a 65-35% over the Wigan wanderers (posh corporate customers aside) – but Roberto Mancini’s swansong was as flat as his other swan-related City match had been an amazing high – the sick swan episode at Old Trafford in October 2011.
The City fans had arrived full of expectations whereas their Wigan counterparts came more in hope and apprehension, with the club’s Premier League survival still hanging in the balance.
As we now know, City were in disarray behind the scenes. Mancini knew he was about to be sacked, while the players – disenchanted with all the off-field shenanigans – had all but disengaged from their manager’s way of thinking.
And boy oh boy didn’t it show! Insipid doesn’t even come close, and Roberto Martinez and his soon-to-be-relegated side were deserving winners.
It hardly compares with the rich rewards on offer at Wembley that day, but the victors in tonight’s third round Capital Punishment – sorry Capital One – Cup tie get the glory of…a fourth round fixture in the Capital Punishment (I think I was the right the first time) Cup.
Professional pride, a first team starting berth and the chance to catch the eye of Manuel Pellegrini, should be incentive enough for a much-changed City First XI to navigate a way past Owen Coyle’s Championship outfit.
Wigan have made a steady, if not spectacular start, in the second tier of English football, having seen a fairly substantial turnover of their staff during the summer.
Key players such as James McCarthy, Arouna Kone and Spanish goalkeeper Joel Robles have followed ex-boss Roberto Martinez to Everton, where strangely enough, City’s very own Gareth Barry now resides on a season-long loan.
After the fervour, passion and unbridled joy of Sunday’s Massacre of Moyes’ Manure, it will be a more sobering atmosphere and attendance at the Etihad tonight.
One would imagine the team will be virtually unrecognizable from the derby day line-up, although Pellegrini’s selection will be handicapped by ongoing injury concerns over David Silva, Gael Clichy and the likely absence of Jack Rodwell.
Micah Richards could find himself as the skipper in his first appearance of the season having finally recovered from a pre-season knock. Pantilimon, Lescott, Boyata, Garcia, Jovetic, Dzeko and Milner could all start, with Pellegrini possibly tempted to have some of Partick Vieira’s Elite Development Squad (EDS) either on the bench or thrust straight into the fray.
Marco Lopes, George Evans, Albert Rusnak or Devante Cole might be given first team exposure. But the conundrum of young Swedish striker John Guidetti seems to rumble on unresolved, with opinion on the starlet split.
Still not fit to start the season at any level, Guidetti is a young man of whom some people expect a lot, whereas others believe that he won’t make it in the rarefied, high octane environment of English football’s top tier.
A wonder season with Feyenoord in the Netherlands in 2011/12, saw him score 20 goals in 23 games, including a hat-trick against arch rivals Ajax, thereby achieving cult status into the bargain.
At just 21-years old he has one full international appearance to his name, but his career has gone in reverse gear due to a debilitating illness and a spate of injuries. He’s on his way back to fitness at present but has no chance of any involvement tonight. His time may yet come, who knows?
The competition itself is way down the list of priorities of both Pellegrini and Coyle alike, but, if you’re playing the game you may as well win rather than lose.
With the FA Cup loss still niggling in the background one would hope City will want to knock the filling out of the ‘pie-eaters’ and give them short shrift, if not short crust, with a healthy win and a feast of entertainment for the fans, albeit four-and-half months too late.
In the unpalatable scenario that Wigan are winning at any stage tonight, it may well be that a sub’s bench comprising Aguero, Yaya, Kompany, Navas, Zabaleta, Negredo and Hart, would be enough to give Dave Whelan and Co a really nasty bout of indigestion, and City the chance to savour their just desserts.
City just need a proper ‘pukka’ performance and it’s into the Fourth Round.
By David Walker