2019-02-15 by W.M.
Newport vs Man City: Pep Guardiola promises to punish any players who do not give their all in FA Cup clash
Manchester City’s galaxy of stars can forget about stepping out in a Wembley cup final or on the big stage in the Champions League if they fail to apply themselves away to humble Newport County.
That is the message from manager Pep Guardiola as his team prepares to take on the side currently 15th in League Two for a place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
City remain alive in all four competitions and still in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, so a match against opponents 82 places below them on the English football ladder should represent the easiest assignment left of the season.
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But any City player displaying that attitude could be in for a rude awakening, especially if they don’t much care for the pitch at Rodney Parade. Battered by wind, rain and two rugby union clubs as well as the Exiles, it does not allow for the type of football that Guardiola’s men practice every week in the Premier League.
With a Champions League tie away to Schalke on Wednesday and the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea a week tomorrow, some may take one look down and think about self-preservation.
But if Guardiola gets a whiff of that attitude from any of his squad, then they will find themselves on the sidelines for the high-octane matches that follow.
“I expect the best performance by each one of them,” he says. “Focus on all the details. That is the best way to prepare for Schalke and the Carabao Cup final.
“When you want to play a final in one week, or a tough game in the Champions League, the best way to prepare is to make a good game.
“The players have to risk. It would be a problem for them if they don’t risk and play like a professional to win the game. If they think about the next game, maybe the next one they stay here and they don’t travel to Germany.
“In those situations, I’m not a sweet guy. They have to take it seriously and play the game like it deserves.
“The cup competition is so nice, we got to the semi-finals in the first season, but last season we were out at this stage so we want to go through.”
Remarkably the FA Cup is the only competition missing from Guardiola’s glittering CV for which he has competed and the born winner that he is would dearly love to address that, especially after their shock loss to League One Wigan in the fifth round 12 months ago.
It is a mark of how he views it that he has picked a strong team for both previous rounds against Rotherham and Burnley, even given City’s packed schedule and he will do the same again in South Wales.
Having watched Newport already knock out Leicester and Middlesbrough in this season’s competition, he has a warning about what may happen if standards slip and without the safety net of a possible replay.
“I like the knockout games a lot,” he adds. “I feel the adrenaline and stress is higher because we can come back here out of the competition. That is nice.
“When we have this depth of squad, we can put out a strong team in all competitions except the early rounds of the Carabao Cup. There are players who don’t play regularly in the Premier League, so why shouldn’t they play in the FA Cup? Tomorrow we’re going to make a strong team.
“We played 24, 25 games in three months, almost a game every three and a half days. That is good.
“I’m picking the same players tomorrow as if it could go to a replay. That won’t change. It’s like a final.”
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