London: The next instalment of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s mind games with Manchester City’s Manuel Pellegrini and Arsenal’s chance for redemption against Liverpool provide the backdrop to a mouth-watering FA Cup fifth round.
Chelsea and Arsenal are chasing an FA Cup-Premier League-Champions League treble, while City can go one better as they will also contest the Capital One Cup final against Sunderland next month. Pellegrini must reverse the course of his past history and prove he is not ‘spooked’ by nemesis Mourinho when they meet at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Pellegrini has won only once in nine meetings as Malaga and Manchester City boss against the man who succeeded him at Real Madrid. And Mourinho’s game plan as Chelsea completed the Premier League double over City with a 1-0 away win on February 3 was regarded as a tactical masterclass which left Pellegrini outmanoeuvred.
City and Pellegrini have the opportunity to make amends for that first home league defeat this season by turning the tables on Mourinho and demonstrating the magnificent attacking football that has made them such a force at home.
But Pellegrini must overcome his past as well as the present when he confronts Mourinho. Pellegrini’s use of two strikers in the home game on February 3 led to suggestions it left City outnumbered in midfield and it will take courage on the City manager’s part to repeat the ploy. City will be without Brazil midfielder Fernandinho and Argentina striker Sergio Aguero against Chelsea.
Pellegrini may also risk their FA Cup dreams this weekend to save players for the Champions League. He is facing the first leg of a last-16 tie against visitors Barcelona on Tuesday, so is prepared to rest Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Alvaro Negredo.
City could have Samir Nasri back, though. The France midfielder is back in full training after six weeks out with medial knee ligament damage and says he feels fresh because of his lay-off.
“I’ve missed a month-and-a-half of competition, but it’s allowed me to recharge my batteries,” said the France midfielder.
Saturday: Sunderland vs Southampton; Cardiff vs Wigan; Sheffield Wednesday vs Charlton; City vs Chelsea
Sunday: Everton vs Swansea; Sheffield United vs Nottingham Forest; Arsenal vs Liverpool
Monday: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Hull