Four big decisions facing Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola ahead of FA Cup clash with Fulham

The Catalan has a few big choices to make before Saturday’s game.
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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has some big calls to make as his side prepare to face Fulham in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday.

The Cottagers will provide a big challenge to City’s hopes of making a first Wembley final appearance since they romped to a 6-0 win against Watford in 2019.

The tie also kicks off a hectic month for Guardiola and his players with Premier League games against Brentford, Norwich City, Spurs and Everton and the away leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Sporting Lisbon all on the horizon.

Manchester World looks at the decisions lying ahead for the City boss over the coming 48 hours.

Ederson or Steffan?

Brazilian international Ederson is without doubt Guardiola’s number one choice and has been a significant influence on the City side ever since he joined the club in a £36million move from Benfica in 2017.

The stopper was withdrawn in the 1-1 draw with Atlanta in midweek, with Pep Guardiola admitting he ‘didn’t know’ if Ederson would be fit for the trip to Merseyside.The stopper was withdrawn in the 1-1 draw with Atlanta in midweek, with Pep Guardiola admitting he ‘didn’t know’ if Ederson would be fit for the trip to Merseyside.
The stopper was withdrawn in the 1-1 draw with Atlanta in midweek, with Pep Guardiola admitting he ‘didn’t know’ if Ederson would be fit for the trip to Merseyside.

But Guardiola opted to select back-up keeper Zack Steffan in a number of cup ties this season including the third round win at Swindon Town.

The American also started in Carabao Cup ties against Wycombe Wanderers and West Ham United, as well as the the Champions League group stage fixture at RB Leipzig in December.

With a number of big Premier League fixtures rapidly approaching, could Guardiola offer Steffan another chance to impress when his side face Fulham this weekend?

Mahrez returns - but will he start?

Riyad Mahrez has not featured for City since he scored in a 2-1 win at Arsenal on New Year’s Day.

Mahrez missed a penalty in the defeat to Ivory Coast. Credit: Getty.Mahrez missed a penalty in the defeat to Ivory Coast. Credit: Getty.
Mahrez missed a penalty in the defeat to Ivory Coast. Credit: Getty.

But the Algerian international is match fit after making three appearances for his country during their unsuccessful bid to retain the African Cup of Nations title last month.

Speaking after Mahrez’s return from the tournament, City boss Guardiola revealed the forward would be given a one-week break to recover.

However, the former Leicester City star is now back in training and is viewed as one of City’s key players after scoring 13 goals in 25 appearances in all competitions so far this season.

Could Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Fulham be an ideal opportunity to hand Mahrez the first chance to move on from his African Cup of Nations disappointment?

Combatting Mitrovic

Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic may have struggled to shine in the Premier League with the Cottagers and former club Newcastle United - but he has regained his confidence in the Championship.

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The Serbian striker has 28 goals in 27 appearances in all competitions so far this season and actually scored his first Premier League goal for Newcastle against City back in 2015.

His physical, intimidating style of play with offer considerable threat for Guardiola and his defence this weekend - something the Spaniard will take into consideration before selecting his centre-backs for the tie.

Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, John Stones and Nathan Ake are all fit, available and in contention for the game.

Youngsters to get another chance to shine?

The 4-1 win at Swindon Town saw Guardiola hand a start to talented youngster Cole Palmer and his reward from the 19-year-old was a man of the match performance.

James McAtee of Manchester City U21. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)James McAtee of Manchester City U21. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
James McAtee of Manchester City U21. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Palmer is a major doubt for Saturday’s game against Fulham - but a number of the younger members of the City squad will be hoping they can get some game-time against the Cottagers.

James McAtee, Romeo Lavia, Lukę Mbete and Kayky all came off the bench at the County Ground and could be in contention for more senior minutes at the Etihad this weekend.

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