Cardiff City’s glamour tie with Manchester City can be a catalyst
Pep Guardiola was in attendance as Cardiff City avoided a cup upset against Mansfield Town to earn themselves a glamour fixture against the Catalan's Premier League leaders.
The on-looking City boss, suitably decked out in stylish garments, swapped the luxury of the Etihad for the rudimentary Field Mill. Guardiola’s presence ought to impress on his players that their upcoming opponent has some quality.
Cardiff made light-work of its League Two opponents, scoring three second-half goals to quash any hope of a giant-killing. The 4-1 win was the Bluebirds second four-star outing on the wing. Neil Warnock's squad dismissed rock-bottom Sunderland 4-0 the weekend prior.
Though not much can be said for the opponent's quality, it must be conceded that back-to-back wins suggest a return to form after a crushing festive period in which Cardiff lost four games on the bounce.
The Welsh side had lost its way, lacking confidence and direction. Crippled by injuries, perhaps, but it was not the side that had stormed to the automatic spots in November. Now Cardiff is brushing aside its Christmas slump to resume the halted promotion charge.
Such an uptick in form could well lead nervous nellies to suggest a home tie against Manchester City is an unwelcome distraction.
There is some validity to the argument if one trots out the usual platitudes regarding a lack of focus in the league in the build-up. A zealous fight could invite fatigue, a thumping a second depression. Yet that is to miss the vast potential this fixture has. It can provde a catalyst for the rest of the season.
The Bluebirds will likely sell out for the first time. The City Stadium has been SRO for Welsh internationals but the Championship club has struggled to fill it.
For once there will be a truly raucous atmosphere. Added gate receipts might also aid Warnock in the transfer window. It could also signal greater attendance for coming league matches should the side put up strong resistance.
One wonders how the locals would react to a dramatic upset?
That seems unlikely. Still if the Bluebirds earn a huge scalp and progress they will be buoyed with indomitable confidence. Neil Warnock knows how to build momentum from a big victory. A bit of swagger and arrogance is often a good thing in football. Sir Alex Ferguson built a legend from condescension and superiority. It could carry Cardiff directly into the Premier League.
Few are decrying the prospect of welcoming Manchester City. The large majority is excited by this tie, as should be. It stands as a chance to galvanise the city, invigorate support, and act as a catalyst, even if the Bluebirds lose, for domestic success.