Defeat Aston Villa at home and mid-table Championship side Reading are all that blocks Manchester City’s route to the FA Cup semi-finals. That is the task facing the Citizens as they approach Wednesday’s fifth round fixture – an assignment which must fill Roberto Mancini’s men with confidence. Villa have already been demolished at the City of Manchester Stadium this season and, whilst having improved substantially since then, remain ensconced in mid-table. If Manchester City have real aspirations of cup glory this season, they have to approach the game with the mentality that the Villains are there for the taking.
Mancini was in buoyant mood as he spoke to Sky
“At the moment we have a big chance of winning something at the end of the season,” he said, putting the disappointment of the weekend to the back of his mind. “These next 20 days are very important. We play against Aston Villa and then next week in the Europa League.” City are under no illusions. Whilst the potential for silverware this season is tangible, the biggest assignments of the season are rapidly approaching.
If City are to fulfil the potential which is so obviously brimming beneath the surface of their talented squad, significant improvement from the dismal showing at the weekend against a resolute Fulham side will be required. The selfish decision-making which characterised their impotent attacks and the fear which gripped the stadium as Fulham took a firm hold on proceedings in the final stages seemed to signify the burden of history and exorbitant price tags weighing down on the players. Recognising this tentativeness within his troops, the Italian manager spoke with real purpose and positivity in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
“After we win one trophy I think we will win more in the future,” he said. “This is important for our team.”
City look set to compete on three fronts over the next three weeks without flying winger Adam Johnson. Having injured himself in training in January, it seems likely that the England international will miss another month of football as he attempts to recover – a blow to City’s chances. Johnson’s talent has flickered incandescently when used by Mancini. Cutting in from the right, he has played with fearless directness and calmness in front of goal which has earned the admiration of pundits and fans alike. As City laboured ponderously against Fulham, it was difficult not to conclude that the waif-like dribbler was missed.
Indeed, Johnson’s absence symbolises the greatest obstacle to City’s trophy hopes this season: injuries. “We are so tired and fatigue is a factor,” Mancini warned. “At the moment we need all players available because one match every three days, week after week is hard.” Should City remain active in all competitions when the injuries subside, the 2010/11 season will suddenly emerge a whole lot more prosperous for the Citizens.