LONDON, United Kingdom, Jan 26 – A potential FA Cup banana skin awaits Pep Guardiola as he takes his inconsistent Manchester City team to Crystal Palace in the fourth round on Saturday.
This month’s results tell the tale of City’s erratic form, with Guardiola’s men cruising to a 5-0 win at West Ham United in the FA Cup third round, only to then crash to a 4-0 Premier League defeat at Everton.
They appeared to have found form again last weekend, going 2-0 up at home to in-form Tottenham Hotspur, but conceded two second-half goals to draw 2-2.
“We must be mentally strong,” City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo told the club website this week. “We must keep working hard, keep believing in what we’re doing. It’s the only recipe.
“It’s not a good feeling looking at how things developed (against Tottenham).
“We had everything to win the game, but it’s the same old story: we had troubles creating chances and the other team, with less options, get the goals.”
City won 2-1 on their last trip to Selhurst Park in November, but it took an 83rd-minute goal by Yaya Toure for the visitors to prevail.
Sam Allardyce is yet to make his mark as manager of Palace, whose 2-1 third-round win over Bolton Wanderers is the only game they have won since he succeeded Alan Pardew as manager in late December.
But they were unfortunate to lose 1-0 at home to Everton last weekend, Seamus Coleman netting an 87th-minute winner despite Palace debutant Jeff Schlupp being down injured and a hint of offside.
With Everton having thrashed City on their previous outing, Allardyce took his team’s performance as a good omen.
“Everton beat Manchester City 4-0 last week and were lucky to beat us, so we have to take positives out of that,” said the former England manager.
– Arsenal belief –
The Palace-City encounter is one of only two all-Premier League ties to have been pulled out of the hat, with Arsenal’s trip to Southampton the other.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is facing a ban after being charged with misconduct by the Football Association for pushing the fourth official during his side’s last-gasp 2-1 win over Burnley last Sunday.
Defender Shkodran Mustafi feels the victory, secured by Alexis Sanchez’s 98th-minute penalty, showed Arsenal have more mental strength than people give them credit for.
“In other games it looks like Arsenal aren’t going to come back or it is going to be a draw, but then we score in the last second just because everyone believes in it,” Mustafi told the Arsenal website.
“It shows how much belief we have in ourselves and that we are going to go for it.”
Southampton will be buoyed by having reached the League Cup final in midweek by knocking out Liverpool in a 2-0 aggregate victory.
Liverpool, who needed a replay to see off fourth-tier Plymouth Argyle in the third round, welcome Wolverhampton Wanderers to Anfield on Saturday.
Chelsea, the Premier League’s runaway leaders, face a west London derby at home to Championship side Brentford and Tottenham entertain fourth-tier Wycombe Wanderers.
Following a 1-1 draw against Liverpool in their last home game, Manchester United will look to get back to winning ways at Old Trafford against shock 2013 FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic.
The two fifth-tier teams left in the competition both face home ties, with Lincoln City tackling Championship leaders Brighton and Hove Albion and Sutton United hosting Leeds United.
Friday (1955 GMT):
Derby v Leicester
Saturday (1500 GMT unless otherwise stated):
Blackburn v Blackpool, Burnley v Bristol City, Chelsea v Brentford, Crystal Palace v Man City, Lincoln v Brighton, Liverpool v Wolves (1230 GMT), Middlesbrough v Accrington, Oxford v Newcastle, Rochdale v Huddersfield, Southampton v Arsenal (1730 GMT), Tottenham v Wycombe
Fulham v Hull (1230 GMT), Man Utd v Wigan (1600 GMT), Millwall v Watford (1200 GMT), Sutton v Leeds (1400 GMT)