We'll see at least one more Premier League side go out tomorrow when Stoke entertain Arsenal, but this year could be a very open FA Cup. Only six Premier League clubs are through so far, Chelsea, Fulham, Aston Villa, Bolton, Portsmouth and Birmingham with a seventh tomorrow. Wigan at home to Notts County, Tottenham away to Leeds and Wolves away at Crystal Palace are the replays after today's games. Realistically two Premier League teams win through, I'd suggest Wigan and Spurs. That's Nine. Which leaves City playing Scunthorpe as the hopeful tenth.
Ten Premier League sides in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup. A couple of top division match ups, say Chelsea vs Arsenal, and this gets very interesting very quickly. Roberto Mancini was known in Italy for winning the Italian Cup with the three clubs that he managed. Are we seeing the winds of fortune blowing to allow City to be the fourth team that he has managed to a Cup?
Now of course City do have to get past the hex put on them by Curly when, in New York meeting supporters, our Chief Executive was quoted as saying "'This football club will be without doubt the biggest and best in the world." I love the sentiment but could we win something first before making such grandiose statements? You can just feel the hands of fate already at work to bring the club back to earth with a shock defeat at Scunthorpe.
Once again I'm looking forward to seeing what Mancini does from a selection and tactical standpoint. Does the former Inter boss focus on this game or do players, particularly Bellamy and Tevez, get rested in preparation for the second leg of the Liquid Cup? Word around the internet is that Adebayor might be ready to play against United, but that's a huge risk to play the Togolese striker when there is no real idea as to how his performance will be impacted after the horrendous events in Angola.
Nor is the match against Scunthorpe a given. Most previews have pointed to the "easy" 5-1 victory earlier in the season as the reason that City should stroll. And yes, Scunthorpe ran out of steam in the second half but for the first 45 minutes the Irons gave a good account of themselves, were tied 1-1 and if Paul Hayes had scored with a header to make it 1-2 there was a smell of an upset on the cards. Instead RSC scored to make it 2-1 at half and City comfortably eased to victory in the second.
There will be a temptation to rest both Barry and de Jong for the tie. I think that would be a mistake and instead one of them, probably de Jong, should partner in the middle with Stephen Ireland. With Petrov on the left and SWP on the right I'd then partner Benjani with Robinho either as a two man striker force or with Robinho playing more as an attacking midfield play maker. I am fully aware that the game is away and Robinho has been poor in such situations but alternatives such as putting Sylvinho in midfield or bringing Kompany forward from the back would seem to be a worse choice.
A number of people have suggested that Stephen Ireland could be a play maker. I disagree, however this would be an interesting opportunity to try such a move. This is why Mancini fascinates me. With Hughes I could have told you the team and the tactics that would be employed. With Mancini I really don't have a handle yet. Bring on Sunday.