Don't get drawn into pitch battle, Guardiola warns City

Saturday, February 16, 2019

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MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) — 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 yesterday.

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 yesterday.

“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 sixties, seventies and eighties. 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 have 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.

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