The news today will be about the uncertainty over Robinho, is he staying or is he going? And as predicted City faced a good Scunthorpe side who for the second time this year are unlucky with a scoreline that flatters City. Don't get me wrong, City deserved to win both ties, but wins by three and two goals have given a generous scoreline. But I'd like to start with Dedryck Boyata.
I wasn't particularly impressed the first time I saw the young Belgian. Competent certainly and did the job required. Today I felt we started to see him grow. Roberto Mancini had said that the City academy product had impressed in training and earned his chance and while a little skeptical that the manager's comments were cover for a lack movement in the transfer market I'm now coming to the conclusion that in the former Inter manager we have someone who tells it like it is.
There was an air of confidence about Boyata's play and I'll be surprised if the Belgian central defending partnership with Vincent Kompany doesn't continue against United in mid week. This has to be encouraging for players in the Academy. Youngster Abdisalem Ibrahim was brought in to the starting line up and Greg Cunningham came on as a Left Back in the second half with Sylvinho switching into midfield. Mancini got just the right balance of experience and youngsters with de Jong providing the needed steadying force for the first half, Sylvinho providing strong play in the second, Ireland getting a good run out and Bellamy keeping the rust off with a 10 minute cameo.
City haven't really moved out of first gear, maybe into second, in both FA Cup ties but are now through to the 5th round where another beatable team in Stoke awaits. In the past Middlesbrough or Scunthorpe would have been a banana skin, but Mancini's Cup prowess seems to have followed him from Italy.
And now to Robinho. Lots of rumour in the press today and reports out of Brazil of a radio interview that suggest the Brazilian is on his way out of the club on loan possibly to Santos. Good. Robinho needs to play every week; I'm still not convinced that he is 100% over the injury at the start of the season but more importantly a loan rather than a sale. Third time is the charm here as the club apparently has learned from the Bianchi and Elano sale mistakes. Whether Robinho ever makes the grade at City is debatable, and his complaints about European managers having systems that a player must adhere to is telling, but the overall brilliance of the player is high. I'd rather see the club try and figure out if they can use such talent than throw away after 18 months.
Overall Chelsea still remain the prohibitive favourite for the FA Cup this year but with three of the Big Four gone as well as the rounding into form Everton, there appears to be a legitimate chance for City to make noise in the competition. I'm not taking Stoke lightly, but that it a winnable game.
Tie of the round if the south coast derby between Southampton and Portsmouth and I quite fancy the 76 winners to beat the 08 holders. Anyone who doubts the veracity of the animosity between the two clubs should rewind their mind back to the West Brom Great Escape season. West Brom fans still talk to this day of the bizarre camaraderie with the Pompey fans who were willing Albion to beat their own side as it would send Southampton down. Both sets of fans were cheering Albion goals and celebrated together on the pitch and in the pubs afterward.
At first glance I think Southampton, West Brom, Fulham, Chelsea, Bolton - regardless of whether Spurs or Leeds make it through, Birmingham, Manchester City and the winner of Wolves and Palace in an upset over Aston Villa.