Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images Europe
Mancini is up for the cup!
By Aaron Leggott
City boss Roberto Mancini is expected to make a number of changes ahead of the critical FA Cup clash at home to Leeds tomorrow.
Mancini, who was less than impressed after last weekend's abysmal performance at St Mary's, knows that this competition must be taken seriously with United extending the gap at the top of the league to 12 points.
The Italian has also rubbished rumours that he could be set to be sacked if City fail to beat the Championship side on Sunday afternoon.
With Vincent Kompany still suffering from a calf strain picked up during City's fourth round win at the Britannia, it is expected that Matija Nastasic will come into the squad to partner Joleon Lescott at the heart of City's defence.
Costel Pantilimon will also be set to continue as City's cup keeper and replace Joe Hart, whilst Jamie Ashdown will also maintain his role as Leeds' FA Cup shot stopper and step into the shoes of number one Paddy Kenny in United's goal.
Whilst Ashdown is expecting to start, Neil Warnock has hinted that whilst he might make a couple of changes with Wednesdays game at home to Blackpool, his team will still be as strong as possible with new signings Steve Morison and Stephen Warnock both expected to start.
After last weekend's humiliating performance against Southampton, I fully expect City to bounce back and record a crucial win to ease the pressure on manager Roberto Mancini. Leeds are currently going through a poor run of form and Warnock is also starting to feel the heat as a number of Leeds fans are getting fed up of his style of football. Of course, players like Diouf and Morison will cause us problems, and whoever plays in defence will need to be aware of the aerial presence carried by both of these forwards.
Prediction: 2-0 City.
Ahead of the game, I spoke to Leeds fan Jack Longstaff who gave us his views on the upcoming tie.
Who do you think will be City's key player and why?
Jack: For obvious reasons Sergio Aguero and Tevez are going to cause Leeds massive problems if they play. It's never going to be easy playing against two of the worlds best players when you're in the Championship. Saying that though, we've managed to keep the likes of Torres, Bale and Fellaini quiet in cup ties this year, so who knows.
This will be the first time since the sides have met since 2004, and the first time since Sheikh Mansour's takeover. Do you believe you can upset the odds and knock out the English champions?
Jack: If I'm honest I think beating the Champions of England in their own back yard is one step too far. Beating Spurs in the last round was nice but I'm not expecting anything from the game tomorrow.
Who should City look out for as the main threat in the Leeds side and why?
Jack: It's hard to say really. Since Luciano Becchio left in September no one else has stepped up to the plate. McCormack is always dangerous in and around the box and seems to be hitting form recently. And of course we have the likes of Diouf and Morison who have Premier League experience. So we might cause the City defence a few problems.
|Back in form: Ross McCormack|
Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images Europe
Predicted Leeds line up?
Jack: (4-4-2) Ashdown; Byram, Lees, Peltier, Warnock; Varney, Austin, Brown, Diouf; McCormack, Morison
What are your views on Neil Warnock as manager? Do you want him to stay or are you getting fed up of him at the helm?
Jack: To be honest I'm one of the few Leeds fans who still think Warnock is the man for the job. His track record isn't great this year admittedly but he's been in this position before. He's done it five or six times in the past so he knows what he's doing. If we don't reach the play-offs this year though he'll be shown the door.
Do you believe Leeds will be able to make a push for promotion back to the Premier League in the next few years?
Jack: Without a doubt. Maybe not this year but with the new owners, GFH capital and sufficient investment in the squad I think we have the set up and support to get back in the Premier League. I'm not just saying this because I'm a Leeds fan but we are a Premier League club, 10 years ago we were in a Champions League semi-final versus AC Milan. So it's only a matter of time in my opinion.
And lastly... who will win the FA Cup?
Jack: You're not going to like the answer to this but Manchester United. It's been a while since Ferguson won the FA Cup and I think the fans are getting slightly restless about it.
Thanks to Jack for taking the time out to answer these questions and I wish you the best of luck for the rest of the season (apart from tomorrow, obviously!)