Writer: Andy Leggott
Date:Monday March 20 2006
City of Manchester Stadium
It promises to be a season defining night at Eastlands tonight as City entertain West Ham United for the right to play in the FA Cup semis. Considering it is 13 years since City appeared in a quarter final, this game comes as something of a novelty. Everybody is understandably being cautious as to how far City will progress, but given we have been given a home tie against a side we have already comfortably beaten this season, maybe this will be the year.
All problems with scheduling aside, the game promises to be an ope affair with plenty of football on display from both sides. On paper it looks the tie of the round and the tie that could produce a surprise finalist come May 14th.
City, having lost at the weekend, know that as well as ending their 30 year trophy drought, the FA Cup now offers them their only realistic route into Europe and it is for that reason I expect them to come out on top. Tonight has become what our season is about. The goalposts will be moved if we progress .... defeat effectively ends the season in March.
Speaking earlier today Richard Dunne gave his thoughts on the awful scheduling of the game.
'We are talking about the biggest cup competition in the world. It is an important occasion, not just for the players but the country as a whole and these matches should be on a weekend. I suppose you could argue not having much time to think about the game is a good thing. But, the preparation is not ideal and I am sure it would not have been that difficult to move one set of Premiership matches to midweek to accommodate the quarter-finals.'
City should resort to the team that beat Villa last week although doubts remain as to the fitness of Samaras, Reyna and Sibierski.
On fire and should put the Hammers defence under a lot of pressure.
The Hammers have doubts over Ferdinand, Ethrington and Hislop. All face late fitness tests but should play if needed.
Seems to always score when I watch the Hammers on the telly.
City easily beat The Hammers at Eastlands earlier in the season. The 2-1 scoreline didn't reflect the balance of play and the game should have ended in a more convincing win for the blues. West Ham have had an excellent return to the Premiership however and are in a good run of form at the moment. I can only find one recent FA Cup meeting between the sides .... a 2-1 Maine Road win to West Ham in 1998. We were poor in those days though.
Howard Webb .... A premiership referee, anything could happen as usual.
I am more optimistic about City's chances in this tie given that we are playing West Ham rather than Bolton. That is not to discredit West Ham, it's just that they play a game that suits City's style. I was also blindly optimistic in 1993, our last quarter final, when we lost 4-2 to Spurs and all hell broke loose. Tonight I think my optimism will be justified with a 3-1 win to City.
Chelsea (a) Saturday
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Date:Monday March 20 2006
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