Pep Guardiola says his Manchester City players will have to adapt to a difficult surface at Rodney Parade, following the Mansfield manager David Flitcroft’s comments about the state of the Newport County pitch.
Mansfield were Newport’s last opponents in League Two and Flitcroft said he was glad he would not have to play on such a heavy surface again. The Welsh side have already knocked Leicester and Middlesbrough out of this season’s FA Cup, and after last season’s shock defeat at Wigan Guardiola knows his players must be prepared.
“Anything can happen in one game, especially away from home,” the City manager said. “I’ve seen Newport’s last few games and they are incredible at set pieces and throw-ins. What they do, they do really well. They are taller and stronger than us and, in some areas, might be better than us, so we will have to make sure we play our own game and not theirs and focus on what we are good at.”
One thing Guardiola can promise is that whatever the result he will not attempt to use the state of the pitch as an excuse. “It’s up to us to adapt and we accept that challenge,” he said. “We have played on bumpy surfaces before in the Premier League, we had to play Tottenham at Wembley just after two NFL games had been staged there. We might be used to playing on fantastic surfaces in the Premier League but all footballers have to start somewhere, and when my players were breaking through at school or in the lower leagues they will have played on pitches that were far from perfect.
“They have all been in this situation before, it is part of football and we will absolutely not be complaining about it. The players know what FA Cup football is about too, these sort of challenges arrive every year and we know they can be tricky. Last season at Wigan, for instance, I thought we played a decent game, but then we had a man sent off and when it was 10 v 11 they scored a late goal. They were top of Division One at the time and in incredible condition. Knockout football is always a challenge but we are ready for it.”
Guardiola intends to name a strong squad for the Newport game, and while Benjamin Mendy and Vincent Kompany are still recovering from injuries and will not feature, the manager confirmed Kevin De Bruyne was fully fit and available.