It's a clash of styles at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday afternoon as Neil Warnock's direct side host Pep Guardiola's entertainers. Mike Norman previews the action but doesn't expect a cupset this time...
"Guardiola's men haven't kept a clean sheet in any of their last six games and they conceded three in two matches against Championship outfit Bristol City recently."
Cardiff v Manchester City
Live on BBC1
Strong and direct hosts capable of a bold show
Sitting third in the Championship table, within touching distance of an automatic promotion slot and with a comfortable gap to the non play-off places, Cardiff can give this FA Cup fourth round tie a real crack.
Neil Warnock's men endured a torrid festive season, losing all four league games around Christmas and the New Year, but they've responded well and are currently on a run of four games unbeaten in all competitions.
The Bluebirds could manage just a goalless draw at home to League Two outfit Mansfield in the previous round, but perhaps incentivised by knowing Manchester City await in this round, Warnock's men strolled to a comfortable 4-1 win at Field Mill in last week's replay.
Physically strong and direct Cardiff have the second best home record in the Championship, so in front of a sell-out and vocal crowd at the Cardiff City Stadium, and with Warnock likely to name his strongest XI possible - on loan midfielder Yanic Wildschut is cup-tied - the hosts are extremely capable of raising their game and causing Sunday's visitors problems.
Changes likely but City will still be very strong
Manchester City will arrive in Cardiff still chasing silverware on all four fronts. Boss Pep Guardiola may be playing down his side's chances of winning the quadruple but it's becoming a distinct possibility with the Premier League virtually wrapped up, only Arsenal standing in City's way of winning the League Cup, and the Citizens being favourites to win both this competition and the Champions League.
And if you think that Guardiola might make wholesale changes for this fourth round tie then think again.
The Citizen have so far played six domestic cup games this season, and no fewer than 11 players have featured in at least four of those games (either form the start or the bench). Those players are Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Danilo, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Claudio Bravo and Yaya Toure. For the record, Gabriel Jesus started in all three of the cup games that he was fit for, and David Silva started in two.
So while the City boss is likely to rotate his squad against Cardiff, with a very winnable home game against West Brom in the Premier League on Wednesday he will feel that he can name a very strong starting XI on Sunday afternoon.
Manchester City are understandably trading as strong favourites to win the game, but the [1.36] available is perhaps slightly more generous than we might have expected. They've certainly started a game at shorter odds away to some Premier League teams this term.
The thinking behind the Match Odds - Cardiff can be backed at [10.5] with the Draw available at [5.8] - could be that the hosts are almost certainly going to be at their strongest from the players available to them, and that City could be slightly weakened.
But as I've mentioned above, even when Guardiola rotates he always starts with at least four or five of his first team regulars, and the players that come in are very much squad players rather than youths.
I expect City to dominate possession and pass the ball around in their usual free-flowing style, but they'll need to be careful when they lose the ball as Warnock will instruct his men to play direct and the get the ball forward as quickly as possible.
Cardiff are third in the Championship despite having made the fewest passes in the entire division, which is an indication of how direct they can be, but given the quality in Manchester City's team I fully expect Guardiola's men to keep their hopes of winning the quadruple alive.
It might pay to back Man City -1 @ 5/6 on the Sportsbook. Although Cardiff are capable of causing the visitors problems I don't envisage a shock result at all. If that's how it turns out to be then City will have their noses in front at some point, and might be able to increase their advantage as the home team chase an equaliser.
It'll be fascinating to see who lines up in defence for City given that they're likely to come under pressure from quick balls into the box once they concede possession.
Warnock's men are the most direct side in the Championship but they're also very good at what they do and I'm willing to take a chance that they'll get on the scoresheet on Sunday afternoon.
Guardiola's men haven't kept a clean sheet in any of their last six games and they conceded three in two matches against Championship outfit Bristol City recently. Cardiff's direct play should cause mroe problems to City defensively, and I can see the hosts getting on the scoresheet in what will ultimately be a defeat.
Mike's Individual Match Preview P/L (all competitions)
Staked: 38 pts
Returned: 59.42 pts
P/L: +21.42 pts