It’s not hard to imagine that Manchester City will show up with something to prove in Saturday’s FA Cup quarterfinal against Middlesbrough. Their resolve has solidified in a ten-match unbeaten streak, but in the words of Pep Guardiola, “every game is a final.”
At this point, the club’s surest route to silverware might be the FA trophy, so Saturday’s match could see them come out with a bang.
Here are three things to watch:
1 - Kevin De Bruyne
Guardiola has been careful to say that success in football never revolves around the individual player. City’s front five have begun to gel at a ferocious level with a few heavy-handed wins.
While Kevin De Bruyne has orchestrated a number of incredible counter attacks and continues to lead City's transitional play with his passing, his shots on goal haven’t quite clicked.
The way that he plays with David Silva and the front three and the general skill he demonstrates throughout his time on the pitch, along with the fiery frustration that passes across his face while City battle against deeply entrenched defenses, leads to believe that his contribution to the attack will increase.
2 - This is A Final
In terms of personnel, the Sky Blues will most likely field their fiercest options in order to create the steepest challenge for their challengers.
In terms of attitude, they will need to be lethal. The ‘X-factor’ has led to incredible results across Europe this season — Leicester City's amazing wins after sacking Claudio Raneiri, City’s win over Barcelona at the Etihad, Barcelona’s miracle against PSG last week, and so much more.
City will need to muster the same courage that's seen them through each Champions League fixture and other tough matches. Passion and intensity will be essential to keep the pace of the game in City’s favor.
3 - Center-Backs
Vincent Kompany could find his way onto the pitch after only six appearances this season for Saturday’s match against Middlesbrough.
Long-term stability is still a ways off. With John Stones still learning amidst a shuffle of less-than-stellar defenders and Kompany lacking experience in Guardiola's system, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they can provide consistent performances to serve the accelerated pace of attack that the squad has developed.
The next few days will determine City’s commitments for the months ahead. All sights will be set on going further into the world's oldest tournament and Europe’s brightest competition.
If the Blues can muster a mental edge and remain fresh and persistent throughout this FA Cup tie, they might be able to open up an often torturous Premier League opponent.