Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City stars not to use the dubious state of Newport County’s pitch as an excuse when they face the fourth tier giant-killers in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Guardiola is aware that Newport’s Rodney Parade ground has one of the more badly damaged surfaces in the Football League, with two rugby union teams also using it and plenty of rain in South Wales causing further problems.
Premier League leaders City are chasing silverware on four fronts this season, and a fifth-round tie away to the team 82 places below them in League Two should in theory provide a comfortable passage into the FA Cup quarter-finals.
But, while the pitch is a cause for concern, City boss Guardiola is in no mood for complacency.
Having studied Newport’s matches, he knows that anything less than proper application on a difficult surface will lead to trouble.
And he cites playing at Wembley in October against Tottenham, after the national Stadium had hosted an American Football game the day before, as a reason not to complain about what to expect.
“We have to adapt. It is what it is, so we accept the challenge,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday. “We played in the Premier League against Tottenham after two NFL games, and the pitch was not good.
“If it can happen in the Premier League, it can happen with a team from a lower division, so we accept it.
“All of us know it will be so tough. If we just expect it to be easy because they are in a lower division, we will have a big mistake.
“I saw reviews and vintage games here in England from the 60s, 70s and 80s. The big difference in football from the past and now is the pitches.
“We will see what the pitch is like tomorrow when we arrive in the stadium, and we will have to adapt. You don’t win anything by complaining. They are the owners, and we have to adapt.”
Recent FA Cup history offers further reason for Guardiola to be cautious.
Last year, City were in a similar position as they competed for four trophies, only to suffer a 1-0 defeat at third-tier Wigan in the FA Cup fifth round.
Newport knocked out Premier League side Leicester and Championship outfit Middlesbrough in the previous two rounds on their own patch.
Tottenham needed a late equaliser from England captain Harry Kane at Newport to force a replay in their fourth-round tie last season.
So, before City can focus on their Champions League last-16 first leg tie at Schalke next Wednesday, and the League Cup final with Chelsea on Sunday week, Guardiola only has his eyes on Newport.
“We treat them with a lot of respect. They’ve done incredibly in this competition, and what they do, they do it really well. We’ve watched as much as possible to understand what they do,” he said.
“What happened with Wigan, it’s one game and it’s away, so anything can happen. We will take it seriously. I’m quite sure about that.”
Newport manager Michael Flynn claims a win over City would represent the biggest shock in the long history of the FA Cup.
“If we win this – whether it’s extra time or penalties, and I don’t care how we do it – it will be the biggest shock in FA Cup history,” Flynn said.
“I say that with the biggest respect to other big giant-killings.
“My reasons for that are because of the sheer gulf in finances, the quality of the players Man City have, the level they are playing at, and that they have the best manager in the world right now.”AFP