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These two enter this fixture in polar opposite form. Whereas Man City’s revival continued with success over neighbours United, having just dismantled Chelsea a few days earlier, Aitor Karanka’s side have now lost five of six winless fixtures following back-to-back home defeats at the hands of Derby and Blackburn.
Birmingham have in fact won just four times in 22 appearances stretching back into September, with only two victories from the past 14.
Their five most recent outings have seen them ship a combined 13 goals, and if the likes of Middlesbrough and Derby can register four times against them at St. Andrew’s, we shudder to think how City will punish them at the Etihad if they really set their mind to it.
Indeed, Derby remain the lowest-scoring team in the Championship despite that result, as only three other sides have scored fewer goals than Birmingham.
Man City -2 Handicap
Four of City’s five-game winning streak have come on the road, but back on home turf they’ve also been highly impressive. They’re W16-D2-L1 at the Etihad since February, with top sides Leicester and Liverpool two of the three teams they failed to overcome.
12 of those victories saw Man City register clean sheets, while 12 of them also saw Pep Guardiola’s outfit triumph by at least two clear goals.
The Spanish coach has taken this competition seriously, often picking strong teams even when facing weaker opponents in early rounds, and Man City last fell at the first hurdle back in 2011/12.
Guardiola has overseen 10 wins from 11 FA Cup fixtures over the past two campaigns, lifting the trophy in 2018/19 and reaching the semis last term before coming unstuck at Wembley against Arsenal.
Man City To Win Both Halves
Over half of these 11 FA Cup matches saw the Citizens triumph by at least three clear goals, including four of five at the Etihad, as the likes of Rotherham (7-0), Burnley (5-0), Port Vale (4-1) and Fulham (4-0) were simply swept aside.
Unsurprisingly, City won both halves in those four encounters, and though Birmingham have been better away from home this season, they haven’t faced any real quality and look set to be outclassed here on a big pitch.
Man City are still without self-isolating bunch Ederson, Ferran Torres, Eric Garcia and Tommy Doyle, while Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake remain injured, though City have the tools to cope and the absence of those centre-backs if anything should hurt their visitor’s chances.
It means John Stones and Ruben Dias will likely continue at centre-back and the two enjoy a growing partnership, keeping seven clean sheets in eight appearances together, while Guardiola can also call upon Kyle Walker, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero now.
Karanka isn’t without any selection problems of his own. He’ll hope to have defender Marc Roberts available after missing the past two games following an ankle injury, with Mikel San Jose filling in at centre-back, though Kristian Pederson, Gary Gardner and new signing Alen Halilovic are all unavailable.