The 0-0 draw from two weeks ago was summed up as a restart for Manchester City’s attack after Gabriel Jesus’ injury. David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town achieved their role as upsetters to a certain degree, and forced a replay at the Etihad.
After the electric Champions League match that followed, the Blues proved that they can ignite massive attacking potential.
As we look forward to the FA Cup 5th round replay, here are three things to watch:
1 - Balanced Responsibilities
After resolving certain issues with the deployment of Willy Caballero, Pep Guardiola introduced a new variable with Fernandinho at left-back.
They were unsettled by Monaco’s incisive attacks and as a result, multiple members of the squad have addressed the need for defensive solidity as City seek to make their mark in 2017.
Mistakes were less prevalent in the initial games of Caballero’s reintroduction but his flubs against Monaco, along with other individuals’ mistakes, pointed to general nervousness across the Blues’ defense.
However it manifests, City will have to be ready for Huddersfield’s persistent threats.
2 - Unsettling the Terries
The shutout at both ends that led to this replay has to be broken by City’s attack — while the defense has to be able to repeat the clean sheet.
An emphatic 5-3 win in the Champions League bodes well for the Blues, but it will be no easy task to score five again this time. In fact, making the Etihad uncomfortable with aggressive play will surely be a priority for Huddersfield.
The tenacity of City’s midfield has made the difference in most victories this season. Whether David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, and Yaya Toure play, the Blues have to own that territory with the utmost confidence.
Cutting through the Championship side has to be City’s main objective. Whoever leads the line, along with those on the flanks, have to show the necessary deftness to tip the score in City's favor.
3 - Surplus Prowess
City’s intention to win the FA Cup might result in a lineup balanced between stability and rotation.
Claudio Bravo performed very well to ensure that the Blues could hold a scoreless draw, but after his performance in last week’s Champions League match, Willy Caballero could use another opportunity to open up his game.
The decisions made by City’s coaching staff and the performance of any number of players will be a sign of the squad’s development. Jesus Navas, Nolito, Kelechi Iheanacho, Fabian Delph and others will be seeking to gain productive time on the pitch.
Some of the players selected for Wednesday’s match might not have many more opportunities in the Sky Blue kit. Their ability to make a good run for the team’s success and for their own future will be central to the match’s narrative. In the end, Guardiola will have players on the bench who should be able to clench a close match.
However they arrive at the outcome, City is more than capable of achieving balance across the pitch with their signature, forward thinking style.
With eyes on the Cup as their main chance for silverware in 2017 and hoping to maintain form for other competitions, the Sky Blues have to pull the strings for another emphatic Etihad win.