Manchester City will be no strangers to the threat possessed by Huddersfield Town by the time the Championship high flyers arrive at the Etihad Stadium for their FA Cup fifth round replay on Wednesday. The two sides drew 0-0 at the John Smith Stadium in the first game.
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It was a result that will have frustrated City boss Pep Guardiola, but it could have been much worse. David Wagner, the Huddersfield boss, is launching a genuine bid to gain promotion to the Premier League. The intensity in The Terriers’ play, thanks in no small part to Wagner’s close personal and professional relationship with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, having both worked at Borussia Dortmund, means it was always going to be easier for City to progress on their own ground.
Klopp is famous for his ‘gegenpressing’ style, which often means surrendering possession deep on the pitch in order to win it higher up. Wagner shares this philosophy, but with his own unique style. At home, Huddersfield were able to play with more pressure, but at the Etihad, with Guardiola’s own take on pressing high, City should be able to take the initiative a little bit more. But with John Stones in defence, a man who always looks to play the ball out from the back, Huddersfield will smell blood and look to exploit the high line.
It will be interesting to see what kind of team City play, but whatever happens, key to their success will be breaching the first press. Guardiola is unlikely to play long balls and that means he’ll look to get the ball in behind the visiting front line. Doing so quickly will open up space for direct runs from central areas, and with holding midfielder Aaron Mooy absent due to being on loan from City, Wagner’s men will lack the protection that allows such an expansive style going forward. David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne will look to drop into the spaces the Australian will vacate, while Yaya Toure will look to penetrate from deep, too.
Another option Guardiola will look to use is his wide players, often Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling. Both are more comfortable with the ball at their feet, but could be asked to run onto early balls from fullbacks, because getting up the pitch as early as possible will be vital.
City just couldn’t get going against a very impressive Huddersfield side last time, but they will slow the pace of the game down deeper on the pitch here. Wagner plays a huge role in that intensity, like Klopp, with the way he acts on the touchline, but he will be serving a ban on Wednesday and that could have a negative impact on the players. It will be a tough game for the hosts, but should they manage the game properly, they should edge away with victory.