by Ian WHITTELL
LONDON: – Manchester City’s recent emergence as a genuine footballing power started with FA Cup success in 2011 and, if manager Manuel Pellegrini has his way, it will continue with another triumph at Wembley in May.
The current Premier League joint-leaders face an apparently easy third round home tie on Sunday against Championship club Sheffield Wednesday, whom they defeated 7-0 in the League Cup as recently as September.
The FA Cup has played a key role in City’s recent resurgence, with former manager Roberto Mancini ending the club’s 35-year wait for silverware when he masterminded final victory against Stoke four years ago.
There was a return to Wembley for the 2013 final, and a far different outcome, as City were stunned by Wigan in one of the biggest final upsets of all time, a result which led to the club sacking Mancini.
Little wonder, then, that Pellegrini, who won a Wembley final last season against Sunderland in the League Cup, is placing great store in the competition as City look to ensure they end the season with at least one piece of silverware.
“It’s the start of the FA Cup, which is a very important cup for our team,” he said. “Last year we were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Wigan but won the (League) Cup.
“This year, we were eliminated early from the (League Cup), so we need to try and continue as far as we can.”
Recent injuries – particularly in attack – mean Pellegrini will rotate his squad for the third round game and young forward Jose Angel Pozo, who scored his first and so far only senior goal in that League Cup victory against Wednesday, is in line for what would be only the second start of his career.
“It will be a club that I always remember because I made my debut against them and scored,” said 18-year-old Pozo.
– Run of success –
“So it would be fantastic to play them again and re-live a very happy moment for me. “I did allow myself a smile when we had drawn them again in the FA Cup but just because we won the (League Cup) game 7-0 doesn’t mean this won’t be a difficult match.
“We want to do well in this competition and it means a lot to this club because it was the trophy that started a run of success for us.
“Looking ahead, it goes without saying I would like to stay with the first team and have more opportunities to play this season – that’s my objective – but we will see what happens.”
Sheffield Wednesday boast an admirable FA Cup pedigree, with six appearances in the final to their name but they last lifted the trophy in 1935 – one of three triumphs in the competition.
The Owls’ most recent bow in a final came in 1993, when they were beaten 2-1 by Arsenal in a replay.
The South Yorkshire club reached the fifth round last season but know as well as anyone they face a daunting task to progress past the third round this time.
The 7-0 defeat at the Etihad earlier this term saw all the goals coming in the second half but, nevertheless, manager Stuart Gray believes his side return to the Etihad Stadium with hope.
“A tie at Manchester City is something to look forward to,” Gray said. “We go there full of confidence and we are looking forward to it and I am hoping to do better than we did last time. It is the Cup and there is always a shock.”