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Kevin De Bruyne is back – Man City's rivals should fear worst

Kevin De Bruyne and Matheus Nunes after City scored their fifth goal against Huddersfield

There was something almost ceremonious about the way Ruben Dias hurried over and slipped the captain’s armband on to Kevin De Bruyne’s right bicep.

The big man isn’t back as such –we should probably save that terminology for when the hulking figure of Erling Haaland is available again after injury - but this felt more like the return of the king.

The rest of the Premier League and Europe may not be overly excited to see De Bruyne back on the pitch for Manchester City but Pep Guardiola could not have asked for a much better addition to his squad this month.

There was still more than half an hour to play when De Bruyne was summoned from the bench by the City manager and a jubilant Etihad Stadium crowd rose to its feet and broke into a familiar chant as they acclaimed the return of one of their favourite sons.

It is 150 days since De Bruyne - rushed back too soon after breaking down in the Champions League in June - ruptured a hamstring on the opening day of the season against Burnley but he is back now and it did take him long to make his presence felt.

Within 60 seconds of De Bruyne’s introduction against Huddersfield Town, City went three in front and 16 minutes later the Belgium midfielder had effortlessly stood up a clipped cross for another comeback kid, Jeremy Doku, to lash home for the FA Cup holders’ fifth goal in the most routine of third round victories.

Come the final whistle, De Bruyne made a point of walking round the pitch and saluting different sides of the ground. Suffice to say he has missed it.

Guardiola was reluctant to put too much pressure on De Bruyne’s shoulders but last season’s Treble winners can now approach the second half of the season ominously positioned once again and in the knowledge that they have one of Europe’s purest game changers back in the fold.

“We are incredibly delighted he is back because Kevin helps to win games and there are few in the world [like that],” the City manager said. “I’m not saying play good or better. We can play good in terms of football wise. But win games … Kevin, Haaland, these guys win games, Phil [Foden], Julian [Alvarez].

“That’s why it’s so important to have him back. I am pretty sure Kevin felt how people love him and other people are in love with him. It will be eternal, this mutual respect will be forever.

“I know he can handle the pressure but I don’t want to put the pressure on Kevin’s shoulders because it is not fair for him. We know each other for a long time.

“He has a special, special, special ability to do something that is not easy to find. With all the runners we have now - Phil, Erling, Matheus [Nunes], Oscar Bobb - guys who love to run, we have a guy in behind who can find these passes [for them].

“Kevin is exceptional, he is unique. First we are really pleased he’s back [after] a long time [out] with surgery.”

It will certainly be interesting to see how Guardiola utilises De Bruyne and Phil Foden going forward, and whether he is prepared to play both centrally as he did in the second half against Huddersfield.

Foden has excelled in De Bruyne’s absence and continued that form here. His second goal was a minor classic, a shot hit first time low, hard and true from the right edge of the D that flew into the bottom corner after a cleverly worked corner routine that began with De Bruyne and circulated via Sergio Gomez and Mateo Kovacic to Foden.

Phil Foden of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Manchester City and Huddersfield Town at Etihad Stadium on January 7, 2024 in Manchester, England
Phil Foden has excelled in recent weeks for Ma City - Getty Images/Joe Prior

His first began this romp after Huddersfield, one place above the Championship relegation zone, had held out for the first half an hour playing a blanket defence and defending their 18 yard box with 10 men behind the ball. Once Julian Alvarez plundered City’s second, a long afternoon ensued for Darren Moore’s side, who saw just 16 per cent of the ball.

“In some games [they] can play [together centrally], in some [they] struggle a bit,” Guardiola said of Foden and De Bruyne. “We have to think about it. But always I am a big fan of the talent so why talent cannot play together?

“When I arrived in Barcelona people said Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets could not play together. Why not? But at the same time for our structure - the 4-4-2 we have to change something.”

The only sour note for Guardiola was an injury to Manuel Akanji that forced his substitution in the first half but the return of Doku after five weeks out is another boost for Guardiola. City’s third came when Oscar Bobb’s cross was deflected in and by the end Guardiola was able to hand a debut to young midfielder Jacob Wright and a second appearance for Micah Hamilton.

This is an ideal month for Guardiola to ease De Bruyne back in. After Newcastle on Saturday, City will go away to Abu Dhabi for a winter training camp before returning for their Cup fourth round tie and Burnley in the league on Jan. 31. “He needs to accumulate training sessions more than games,” Guardiola added. “Still he is not [ready] for 90 minutes but Newcastle we have another chance [to play him] and two weeks to make good training in Abu Dhabi for the second part of the season.”


Foden sparkles as De Bruyne and Doku return – as it happened


04:22 PM GMT

Guardiola on De Bruyne's return

Kevin [De Bruyne] helps to win games and there are a few in the world. Kevin, Haaland, Phil, Julian win games. I’m sure Kevin felt how people are in love with him, This mutual respect will be forever...


04:21 PM GMT

Dominance


04:12 PM GMT

The battle for De Bruyne's shirt begins

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne with Huddersfield Town's Sorba Thomas and Jack Rudoni
Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne with Huddersfield Town's Sorba Thomas and Jack Rudoni

04:00 PM GMT

FT: Man City 5 Huddersfield 0

That was a very routine FA Cup outing for City despite a slow start. Five goals, into the hat for the fourth round, De Bruyne back and combining with his compatriot Doku, and Phil Foden continuing to look like one of the best players in the country. A positive afternoon for City, and it feels like their trajectory this season is starting to trend upwards.


03:55 PM GMT

ICYMI: Bamford's second for Leeds is a work of art

For a few seconds, it appears Patrick Bamford was transformed into Didier Drogba.


03:53 PM GMT

87 minutes: Man City 5 Huddersfield 0

De Bruyne whips another cross in from the right, but Huddersfield are still doing the basics despite their tired legs and clear.

At the other end, Huddersfield’s debutant striker Radulovic produced a smart save from Ortega after a smooth dragback and turn in the City box.

Appeals for a Huddersfield penalty for handball, but the ball bounced off De Bruyne’s thigh first.


03:48 PM GMT

83 minutes: Man City 5 Huddersfield 0

Appeals for a penalty as Oscar Bobb skips through a couple of challenges in the box, but the City youngster lost his balance more than anything. As we was falling over, he tried to direct the ball towards goal with a diving header at worm-high.


03:44 PM GMT

79 minutes: Man City 5 Huddersfield 0

“How s--- must you be? It’s only 5-0,” is the chorus from the Huddersfield fans as City go close with another shot from outside the penalty area.

De Bruyne and Doku combining again, this time down the left, but the winger’s cross was badly overhit.


03:40 PM GMT

GOOOAAAALL! Doku returns from injury with a goal, De Bruyne with the assist

Belgian to Belgian for City’s fifth. De Bruyne with an overlapping run down the right, and he picks out Doku with a dink ball towards the back post. The winger did very well to get over the half volley, and his contact was clean enough to squeeze beyond Nicholls.


03:36 PM GMT

70 minutes: Man City 4 Huddersfield 0

This is an attack against defence session now, both teams will just want to avoid any injuries with the result already a foregone conclusion.

More significant is the news that Wrexham have taken the lead away at Shrewsbury.


03:31 PM GMT

GOOOOAAALL! Foden has his second, City have their fourth

That goal is the pick of the bunch, and it is another Foden peach. City worked a slick short corner into the box, with Kovacic backheeling the ball into the path of Foden 22 yards out or so. The ball was the ideal weight for Foden to hit first time, and he swept it into the far corner with his left instep.

Manchester City's Phil Foden scores their side's fourth goal of the game during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round
Manchester City's Phil Foden scores their side's fourth goal of the game during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round

03:29 PM GMT

Bit of a surprise at the London Stadium...

Conway has equalised for Bristol City after a lovely assist from Williams. West Ham unable to build on that early Bowen goal.


03:28 PM GMT

63 minutes: Man City 3 Huddersfield 0

Foden shows his defensive diligence by tracking the run of Thomas all the way into the City half. Foden is playing as well as he ever has for City, which bodes well for England this summer.


03:26 PM GMT

60 minutes: Man City 3 Huddersfield 0

What a chance for Thomas and Huddersfield! He has been a willing runner off the shoulder all game, and this time he was onside and looking into the whites of Ortega’s eyeballs. Thomas just needed to lift the shot, but his strike was low and saved by the outstretched leg of the City goalkeeper.


03:24 PM GMT

GOOOAAALL! City have their third

Nunes controls the bell well in the box and feeds Bobb on the right. I think he was trying to dink the cross on to the head of De Bruyne - who looked like he might score with his very first touch - but the ball deflected off the defender and in off the crossbar. Might well be an own goal. Game over.


03:22 PM GMT

57 minutes: Man City 2 Huddersfield 0

City fans are getting their wish: Kevin De Bruyne and Jeremy Doku are coming on for Jack Grealish and Julian Alvarez. City supporters are signing De Bruyne’s name...this could be a bookmark moment in the season both domestically and in the Champions League.

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne hugs manager Pep Guardiola before coming on as a substitute during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match
Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne hugs manager Pep Guardiola before coming on as a substitute during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match

03:20 PM GMT

Nottingham Forest back on terms

Having fallen 2-0 down to Blackpool, Forest have equalised through Morgan Gibbs-White.


03:16 PM GMT

51 minutes: Man City 2 Huddersfield 0

Guardiola cushions a ball down with outstretched right foot, and the City fans love it. The first touch of long-retired professional footballers continues to be a source of fascination to fans who know the ball would be bouncing off at right angles if they attempted the same.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola reacts as he controls the match ball
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola reacts as he controls the match ball

03:14 PM GMT

49 minutes: Man City 2 Huddersfield 0

Thomas looked to be clean through on goal after a loose City pass back towards Ortega, but the ball was judged to have already gone out of play on the near-side. Huddersfield’s shape and approach remains the same as the first half, which is probably sensible by Darren Moore.


03:12 PM GMT

47 minutes: Man City 2 Huddersfield 0

Kevin De Bruyne gets up to have a trot along the touchline and is cheered to the rafters by the City fans. Oscar Bobb looking lively in the early minutes, but his shot is blocked after taking an extra touch.


03:11 PM GMT

Leeds heading towards the fourth round...

Patrick Bamford has put them 2-0 at Peterborough.

Patrick Bamford of Leeds United (L) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's second goal during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match
Patrick Bamford of Leeds United (L) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's second goal during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match

03:10 PM GMT

We are back under way at the Etihad

No changes from either side. City fans will be eager to see Doku and De Bruyne.


03:01 PM GMT

He's an FA Cup veteran...


02:54 PM GMT

HT: Man City 2 Huddersfield 0

Man City finished the half probing for a third goal, but Matos blocked Alvarez’s shot and then Lewis’ first touch let him down.

Guardiola will not have been enamoured by City’s first 20 minutes, but there can be no grumbles about the position his team now find themselves in.

It is all going according to plan for City.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola reacts during the first half against Huddersfield
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola reacts during the first half against Huddersfield

02:48 PM GMT

45 minutes: Man City 2 Huddersfield 0

We will have SEVEN minutes of first-half stoppage time, which I’m sure will delight Huddersfield. The injury to Akanji and the bloodied nose of Gomez account for most of it.


02:45 PM GMT

43 minutes: Man City 2 Huddersfield 0

This has followed a very similar pattern to Chelsea vs Preston: the Championship team’s organisation and application has been very impressive, but the contest is effectively finished by the first goal.


02:43 PM GMT

40 minutes: Man City 2 Huddersfield 0

Another knock for City as Gomez receives treatment and a change of shirt for a bloodied nose. The left-back is back on the pitch and looks fit to continue.


02:42 PM GMT

A couple of goals elsewhere...

Forest have reduced the deficit against Blackpool through Dominguez.

Leeds United have also scored the game’s opening goal at Peterborough through Ethan Ampadu.

Ethan Ampadu of Leeds United celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Peterborough United and Leeds United
Ethan Ampadu of Leeds United celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between Peterborough United and Leeds United

02:40 PM GMT

GOOOOAAALL! Alvarez doubles City's lead

The Treble winners now have a stranglehold on this tie. Foden was involved again, this time on the right side of the box, bouncing a first-time pass back into the path of Nunes. Lewis had the first chance but scuffed his effort, but Alvarez was on hand to poke the ball beyond the despairing Nicholls.

Julian Alvarez of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match
Julian Alvarez of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Emirates FA Cup Third Round match

02:38 PM GMT

35 minutes: Man City 1 Huddersfield 0

That should settle City down, and all of sudden the hard yards feel even harder for Huddersfield.  Another goal and Guardiola will think about managing minutes, and perhaps introducing De Bruyne and Doku to get them sharp. City play Newcastle away next weekend before their winter break.


02:35 PM GMT

GOOOAAALL! Foden gives City the lead

City had just started to prise apart Huddersfield, and the man of the moment Phil Foden makes the pressure count. Alvarez tried to smash the ball across the area, and the ball broke free for Foden, who blasted beyond Nicholls from a tight angle with his left foot.


02:32 PM GMT

30 minutes: Man City 0 Huddersfield 0

Huddersfield goalkeeper Nicholls and his defence have shown impressive composure whenever City have delivered into the box. If this game stays the same, there will be a lot of chat about De Bruyne and Doku in the City concourses.


02:30 PM GMT

Two quickfire goals at the City Ground....

Nottingham Forest have conceded twice in as many minutes and find themselves 2-0 down against Blackpool.

With Jason Tindall leading Newcastle’s celebrations yesterday, it has been a great weekend to be tangerine so far...

Back at the Hawthorns, West Brom are surely out of sight against Aldershot. They lead 3-0.

Blackpool's Jordan Gabriel scores their first goal
Blackpool's Jordan Gabriel scores against Nottingham Forest - Reuters/Andrew Boyers

02:28 PM GMT

26 minutes: Man City 0 Huddersfield 0

Nunes gets into the box and feeds a low cross across the area, but Lees is well positioned to clear. Phil Foden has been very quiet for a player in sumptuous form in recent weeks. Grealish tries a flashy cross with the outside of his boot but it is straight at the goalkeeper.


02:26 PM GMT

24 minutes: Man City 0 Huddersfield 0

City need to make some more deep runs from midfield to try and puncture this Huddersfield defensive set-up. A City pass rolls behind for a Huddersfield goal kick, and the home crowd remains quite flat. Rodoni battles well to shoulder Bobb off the ball and win Huddersfield a throw. Guardiola now on his feet in the technical area.


02:24 PM GMT

22 minutes: Man City 0 Huddersfield 0

What Huddersfield have done well so far is keep their defensive line relatively high, rather than sagging back into their penalty area. City do not have the threat of Haaland, or lightning speed out wide, so defences can creep up on them. Matos carried the ball forward for the visitors down the left and went looking for a free-kick, but nothing doing.


02:22 PM GMT

20 minutes: Man City 0 Huddersfield 0

It looks like City have tweaked their shape, with Gomez moving into a true left-wing position and Grealish tucking in to his inside. Darren Moore and Huddersfield will feel very pleased with their opening 20 minutes.

Moore’s former club West Brom are now 2-0 up against Aldershot.


02:20 PM GMT

16 minutes: Man City 0 Huddersfield 0

Akanji had to receive some treatment but is now back on the pitch. Huddersfield ‘keeper Nicholls did well to claim a corner, and distribute accurately, but a poor pass saw the counter spurned. Quick feet from Oscar Bobb, but he skewed his shot wide.

Akanji grimaced after playing the pass, and is now down on the turf again. That is him done for the day. It was a strong challenge from Matos, and Akanji’s right leg was stretched away from his bodey.

Nunes is coming on to replace him.


02:16 PM GMT

13 minutes: Man City 0 Huddersfield 0

This time City spring a surprise by allowing Gomez to overlap from left-back, and they win a corner which Huddersfield defend.

The away side looked to have runners in the clear on the counter-attack, but Jackson’s diagonal towards Thomas was overhit.

Matos has been shown a yellow card for catching Akanji.


02:13 PM GMT

11 minutes: Man City 0 Huddersfield 0

A momentary scare for City there as Thomas spins behind their defence in the left channel, and looked to be through against Ortega, but the flag correctly went up for offside. City’s reserve goalkeeper got a hand to Thomas’ shot in any case.

Meanwhile, at the Hawthorns, West Brom are 1-0 up against Aldershot.


02:12 PM GMT

9 minutes: Man City 0 Huddersfield 0

Huddersfield are trying to break quickly whenever they regain possession. Dias is penalised for climbing. There is always an atmosphere of “it’s only a matter of time” when one of the big boys plays lower league opposition in the cup, and it transmits from crowd to players and back again.

Manchester City's Portuguese defender #03 Ruben Dias (R) wins a header from Huddersfield Town's Welsh midfielder #14 Sorba Thomas
Manchester City's Portuguese defender #03 Ruben Dias (R) wins a header from Huddersfield Town's Welsh midfielder #14 Sorba Thomas

02:10 PM GMT

7 minutes: Man City 0 Huddersfield 0

Julian Alvarez has a dig from long range, and he is well capable off either foot, but that was straight down the throat of Nicholls in the Huddersfield goal. Then a passing avenue opens up, but Grealish overhits the ball towards Bobb.


02:08 PM GMT

GOAL! West Ham lead Bristol City

An early breakthrough at the London Stadium and no prizes for guessing who scored...yet another goal on Jarrod Bowen’s tally this season. That’s now 14 in all competitions.

West Ham United's English striker #20 Jarrod Bowen celebrates after scoring his team first goal during the English FA Cup third round football match
West Ham United's English striker #20 Jarrod Bowen celebrates after scoring his team first goal during the English FA Cup third round football match

02:06 PM GMT

4 minutes: Man City 0 Huddersfield 0

City keeping the ball in the Huddersfield half, with Bobb and Grealish holding the width on each side. Bobb will be supported by Rico Lewis on the underlap. Huddersfield shuffling from side-to-side, and back and forth, so far preventing City from having a clear sight of goal.


02:04 PM GMT

2 minutes: Man City 0 Huddersfield 0

Bright start from Huddersfield, delivering a cross from each flank inside the first minute, but Ruben Dias was well positioned to head the ball away.

The Championship team then enjoy some possession across the back, close the the halfway line. A positive beginning, but very early days. Promising spells at the Etihad can soon become distant memories.


02:02 PM GMT

KICK OFF!

We are under way at the Etihad. Huddersfield get the game started, playing with a back five and Sorba Thomas leading the line on his own.


02:00 PM GMT

The teams are on their way out at the Etihad

Erling Haaland is with the City team, wearing a big Arsene Wenger-style puffer jacket, which tells you he is not yet fit enough for a place on the bit. Let’s hope he has a handle on the zip.


01:57 PM GMT

The last time the teams played

Danilo scored for Man City in a 3-0 Premier League victory at the John Smith’s Stadium. Almost five years ago to the day, and it came at the start of a long winning run that saw City pip Liverpool to the title by a point.

Danilo of Manchester City celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Huddersfield Town and Manchester City
Danilo of Manchester City celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Huddersfield Town and Manchester City

01:33 PM GMT

Guardiola on De Bruyne and Doku being on the bench

They are ready to play. They are on the bench and are ready.

And on how seriously City are taking the competition and today’s opponents:

Every time we’re at Wembley and lift the FA Cup, we feel something special. It has a lot of tradition.

When you win the treble you tend to make the opponent the underdog. A few years ago, Huddersfield were in the Premier League. They have a new manager but they always make it tough.


01:27 PM GMT

Shrewsbury vs Wrexham teams

Shrewsbury XI: Marosi, Feeney, Dunkley, Anderson, Bennett, Perry, Kenneh, Benning, Oluwatunmise Sobowale, Shipley, Bowman

Subs: Sraha, Winchester, Burgoyne, Pierre, Bayliss, Idowu, Max Mata, Loughran, Whitney

Wrexham XI: Okonkwo, Cleworth, Tozer, O’Connor, Forde, Cannon, Evans, Lee, McClean, Mullin, Fletcher

Subs: McFadzean, Jordan Davies, Young, Dalby, Boyle, Bickerstaff, Barnett, Jones, McNicholas

You can read all about one of English football’s forgotten rivalries here.


01:25 PM GMT

West Brom vs Aldershot teams

West Brom XI: Griffiths, Pipa, Bartley, Taylor, Pieters, Mowatt, Chalobah, Fellows, Heard, Malcolm, Dike

Subs: Kipre, Thomas-Asante, Cann, Yokuslu, Whitwell, Higgins, Love, Shaw, Mfuamba

Aldershot XI: van Stappershoef, Rowe, Harries, Harfield, Widdrington, Krusnell, Frost, Glover, O’Keefe, Tolaj, Barham

Subs: Bray, Thomas, Jones, Haigh, Burnett, Mullins, Willard, Turner, Westen


01:24 PM GMT

Nottingham Forest vs Blackpool teams

Nottingham Forest XI: Vlachodimos, Montiel, Worrall, Murillo, Toffolo, Yates, Danilo, Hudson-Odoi, Gibbs-White, Dominguez, Wood

Subs: Turner, Tavares, Mangala, Williams, McKenna, Omobamidele, Aguilera, Gardner, Esapa

Blackpool XI: Grimshaw, Connolly, Casey, Husband, Hamilton, Norburn, Lawrence-Gabriel, Morgan, Lyons, Rhodes, Dembele

Subs: O’Donnell, Dale, Joseph, Carey, Dougall, Virtue, Ekpiteta, Thompson, Oakley-Boothe


01:24 PM GMT

Peterborough vs Leeds teams

Peterborough XI: Talley, Katongo, Knight, Edwards, Burrows, Kyprianou, Collins, Poku, Randall, Mason-Clark, Jade-Jones

Subs: Steer, Crichlow-Noble, Fuchs, De Havilland, Ajiboye, Mothersille, Fernandez, Wakeling, Mills

Leeds XI: Klaesson, Gray, Rodon, Ampadu, Firpo, Shackleton, Gruev, Anthony, Piroe, Gnonto, Bamford

Subs: Ayling, Cooper, Kamara, Summerville, James, Rutter, Poveda-Ocampo, van den Heuvel, Fernandez


01:18 PM GMT

Luton Town vs Bolton Wanderers teams

Luton XI: Krul, Mengi, Osho, Bell, Ogbene, Sambi Lokonga, Barkley, Doughty, Chong, Morris, Adebayo

Subs: Andersen, Berry, Woodrow, Kabore, Mpanzu, Clark, Kaminski, Giles, Townsend

Bolton XI: Baxter, Toal, Santos, Forrester, Sheehan, Dacres-Cogley, Maghoma, Dempsey, Williams, Adeboyejo, Charles

Subs: Iredale, Thomason, Bodvarsson, Coleman, Morley, Ashworth, Jerome, Matheson, Lewis


01:15 PM GMT

David Moyes goes strong against Bristol City

West Ham XI: Fabianski, Coufal, Zouma, Mavropanos, Emerson Palmieri, Soucek, Alvarez, Fornals, Ward-Prowse, Lucas Paqueta, Bowen

Subs: Johnson, Cresswell, Cornet, Ings, Ogbonna, Benrahma, Areola, Coventry, Mubama

Bristol City XI: O’Leary, Tanner, Vyner, Dickie, Pring, Williams, Gardner-Hickman, Bell, Knight, Mehmeti, Conway

Subs: Matty James, Cornick, King, Weimann, Wells, Bajic, Knight-Lebel, Nelson


01:13 PM GMT

A strong City XI

There was speculation that De Bruyne could start but the Belgian has to be content with a spot on the bench. It is, however, a strong City XI (when do they not field a strong side?) with starts for Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez and Mateo Kovacic.

No spot for Kalvin Phillips so we can assume he hasn’t recovered from his illness. The midfielder, hoping for a rare start was one of several players hit by the bug.

MAN CITY XI TO FACE HUDDERSFIELD: Ortega Moreno, Akanji, Dias (C), Gvardiol, Gomez, Lewis, Kovacic, Bobb, Foden, Grealish, Alvarez. Subs: Ederson, Walker, Ake, Doku, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Nunes, Wright, Hamilton


01:05 PM GMT

Here's the Huddersfield XI


01:01 PM GMT

Here's the Man City XI - De Bruyne on the bench

There was speculation that the Belgian could start today, but Guardiola has, again erred on the side of caution.


12:56 PM GMT

Possible return for De Bruyne and will Phillips be fit?

By Mike McGrath

Kalvin Phillips is among a group of Manchester City players hit by illness this week ahead of a rare opportunity to impress in the FA Cup. Phillips has not trained due to nasal congestion and would have been in line to start against Huddersfield Town on Sunday as Rodri has returned to Spain following the death of his grandmother.

Phillips has started two matches for City this season - with as many for England - and could move in the January window to get regular matches ahead of the European Championships in the summer.

“The last five days he has been sick, so he could not train,” said City manager Pep Guardiola. “Bernardo [Silva], Scotty [Carson], Kalvin and Mateus Nunes are ill. Like many people at this time are suffering. Rodri, unfortunately his grandmother passed away in Madrid. On Friday and Saturday he will not be here.”

Kevin De Bruyne, however, could make his comeback after being out since the first weekend of the season with a hamstring injury that required surgery, although Guardiola believes his minutes will have to be managed carefully to avoid him breaking down again. De Bruyne has suggested he may have to adapt his game to avoid further fitness problems.

“He’s not going to change his qualities, they are there. Of course it was a big injury, what is concerned the most is to try and avoid a repeat,” said Guardiola. “This is what we have to be careful with, with his minutes at first. There is enthusiasm in the first minutes. “Wow, I’m going to play”. You have to careful with that.

“You have to speak with him but especially with his doctors, physios and the guys who knows what the minutes should be and the best processes. What Kevin needs, every player with long injures, is accumulate weeks of training and minutes. Weeks and weeks. A setback would be the worst. If they can train four or five training sessions, a game, training sessions, more minutes, then 90 minutes then train good in camp in Abu Dhabi. That is the best that can happen right now for Kevin.”

Erling Haaland and Jeremy Doku have also been back in training after injuries but may not be risked in the FA Cup.


12:54 PM GMT

It's a fresh day in Manchester

That’s my way of saying it’s sunny but very cold...makes for good pics, though.


11:13 AM GMT

Pep Guardiola: 'FA Cup is important – we won't play weakened teams'

By Ian Whittell

Pep Guardiola has revealed how focusing on cup competitions has helped him transform Manchester City into the most successful English team of recent years.

City begin the defence of the FA Cup with a home tie against Huddersfield on Sunday with their manager looking to maintain his incredible record in the competition.

In his seven seasons in English football to date, Guardiola has “only” won the FA Cup twice, but he has reached the semi-finals on a total of six occasions – 2018 when City were shocked in a fifth round loss at Wigan is the only exception.

Add in the four EFL Cups he has won, and, even allowing for the talent at his disposal, Guardiola could never be accused of taking cup competitions lightly.

And it is little surprise Guardiola does not expect – or want – either domestic cup to be done away with, as he explains that success in cup competitions has helped him establish a winning mentality at the Etihad.

“Since day one that I am here asking about that. It’s not going to happen, reducing competitions, we have to accept it,” he said.

“So since I arrived I tried to inoculate in the whole institution that it’s really important, it’s not friendly games here, it’s not competitions to choose, it’s not ‘this game is more important than the other one’.

“I know we are not stupid and other games are more important than other ones but to create more important games you have to win the other ones before. It’s the process.

“We train every day and Huddersfield we will prepare the game a lot because the FA Cup, it deserves it.

“This is of course respect. We cannot win four Carabao Cups in a row if you do not take every game seriously, it’s impossible.

“No team has done it, four in a row in modern football with incredible rivals, it means we were there all the time. Same with the FA Cup, it’s really, really important.”

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola cannot be accused of taking the cup competitions lightly - AP/Dave Thompson

Of City’s treble-winning efforts last year, the FA Cup final success in the Manchester derby was, for many supporters, the highlight of the season, coming against local rivals and also maintaining their side’s interest in winning a treble that, to that point, had only ever been accomplished by United.

“The fans didn’t invite me to the pub to take a beer! I didn’t speak with them, honestly, but I know they were happy,” joked Guardiola.

“You will not find one person in this club and in this locker room that doesn’t love it. The FA Cup is the FA Cup.

“It’s a competition that started last year with the low, low divisions. So it’s special. We feel it. I think we’ve behaved really well. I think, except one year, we have reached the semi-finals most of the time, two times in the final and won it. So we were there all the time.”

Kevin De Bruyne and Jeremy Doku are on the verge of returning from injuries although Guardiola may resist the temptation to recall them today and wait for next Saturday’s league visit to Newcastle.

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