By Rob Cole
Graham Potter has left no stone unturned in his preparation for today’s FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester City.
He drove to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night to watch Pep Guardiola’s men play Schalke in the Champions League and then joined up with his squad in Birmingham that night ahead of the game with West Brom the next day.
What he saw merely underlined what he already knew – that Manchester City are one of the best teams in the world!
“I didn’t stay to the end. After 75 minutes I got a gist of what they were about,” admitted Potter.
“I got the sense that Man City were frustrated in the first 20 minutes and, looking at Pep on the side, he didn’t look happy at the way his team were playing.
“Schalke set up in a way to frustrate Man City. The reality was that they weren’t that good, yet they won 7-0 against a top Bundesliga team.
“They’re the best team in the UK, in the last eight of the Champions League and are one of the best teams in the world. We are facing a huge, but brilliant, challenge.”
Having lost 3-0 at West Brom it was a long journey home to South Wales. Potter and his players arrived back at 1.00am on Thursday, leaving him with just 66 hours to prepare for what he admits is the biggest game of his managerial career
“It would have been nice to have had a bit more time, but we will be ready. When that sixth goal went in on Tuesday night I thought to myself ‘I could do with another week to prepare’,” admitted Potter.
“But it’s the FA Cup, it’s a one off game and this competition is known for upsets and dream-scenarios. Anything can happen.
“It would be right up there with the biggest of upsets in FA Cup history if we got through to the semi-finals. To do that we have to be ourselves, not copy what Wigan did when they beat them last year or what Schalke did to frustrate them.
“We have to defend well because they are so clinical. Most teams give you a chance, but Man City don’t do that – they don’t lose the ball unless they are trying to score, which is why they are at another level.
“We have to try to be ourselves. We can’t try to copy what Wigan did last year, they have their players and their ideas and we have ours. We want to try to use this experience to develop and grow ourselves – the only way you can meet a challenge of this size is by being yourself.
“The crowd can play a big part, but we have to give them something to shout about. Most people will think we’ve got no chance and that our role in the game is to lose. It is hard to argue with that rationally, apart from the fact it is the FA Cup.
“We’re all human and it’s a one off game. We want the wind to be blowing, the rain to come down and the Liberty to be bouncing.”
To add to Potter’s problems, top scorer Oli McBurnie looks set to miss the match through his continued sickness. Kyle Naughton is another injury doubt with a groin problem.
“Oli’s been for blood tests, he’s on and off the toilet and in and out of bed. It’s a virus, nothing sinister, but it is a big per centage he won’t be available,” said Potter.