When Manchester City faces West Ham United on Friday's FA Cup tie, the ability to rest players in preparation for upcoming Premier League and Champions League play will possibly be outweighed by the club’s interest in making clear progress after the strange holiday period events.
Certain players will surely need rest and it will be helpful to use the match as an opportunity for a few youngsters to get time on the pitch, but City will want to make a strong display of intent.
Here are three things to watch:
1 - Team effort
City’s wide range of talent needs to perform in a more unified manner. In order to avoid the anxiety and anger that has plagued them in recent games, they need to move and support each other with ferocity.
Without Fernandinho, Fernando, Yaya Touré, and others, will be tasked with providing a model of intensity and intelligence in front of the defense.
Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Agüero helped to set a tone of box to box tenacity against Burnley that will need to be replicated by whoever takes the pitch on Friday.
With the possibility of City’s top teenagers getting minutes, Pep Guardiola can infuse freshness and long-term objectives into the match plan.
2 - Stubbornness
The Sky Blues have looked their best when they are hungry to advance from the first whistle. Missed chances can't deter them from continuing to press.
Meanwhile, the determination to manage defensive tasks has to be equally hard-nosed. Since the Leicester City defeat, there has been a stronger presence in front of Claudio Bravo but other teams’ abilities to hassle City makes the back four constantly accountable.
3 - Goals
The quest to score continues. While personnel will have some effect on the Blues approach toward West Ham’s net, the depth of City’s roster and the desire to contribute to the outcome of matches effectively is important for every player.
It’s now been weeks since the dire need for more direct play was announced by Pep Guardiola and there has been clear progress.
However, their style has still been easily interpreted by opponents. West Ham will not be a walk in the park but the desire to win has to be central to City’s team play from the outset.
Although the match won't have an effect in the Premier League standings, it can play a vital part in how the team enters the next phase of the season. Champions League matches are not far off and the team could use every available boost to prepare for European play.