Manchester City host Watford in the third round of the FA Cup, with the Premier League champions hoping to make up for their disappointing 2-4 Capital One Cup exit at the hands of Aston Villa. Watford, meanwhile, are enjoying a reasonably good season in the Championship and sit in the final promotion play-off place, with goal difference separating them from Millwall.
The last time these sides played each other was in the 2006/07 Premier League, when City travelled to Vicarage Road; the match finished in a 1-1 draw with Tamas Priskin cancelling Darius Vassell's 53rd minute strike. The result relegated the Hornets. The last time these sides played each other in the FA Cup was in 1997, in the fourth round. City won that match 4-1.
Where to Watch
Kick-off is set for 3pm GMT. Live updates will be available on BBC Radio 5 live. Catch all the highlights on iTV 1 and iTV 1 HD at 11pm GMT.
City come into this game after back-to-back wins in the Premier League, and seven goals scored in those two games. It would therefore appear that any reservations Roberto Mancini had about his strikers have been settled. The champions seem to have recovered well from the home derby defeat to rivals Manchester United but the disappointing 1-0 defeat at Sunderland will give the Hornets hope.
The Etihad club remains second in the Premier League, trailing Sir Alex Ferguson and the Red Devils by seven points. The good news for City fans is that the players, according to captain Vincent Kompany, are not worried. The Belgian international centre-back has stressed the self-belief in the club's dressing room and is confident he and his team-mates can repeat last season's end-of-campaign heroics, when they overturned a similar deficit.
Cup competitions are a different kettle of fish, though. The club's second consecutive exit from the Champions League group stages aside, the defeat to Villa in the Capital One Cup is likely to play some part in the mental build-up to this game.
Overall, City should be clear favourites to progress past Watford, particularly since the defeats to United, Sunderland and Borussia Dortmund (in the final game of the Champions League) are the only black marks since the 3-1 defeat to Ajax (also in the Champions League) back in October.
Watford come into this game on a series of inconsistent displays. The side, managed by ex-Chelsea fan favourite Gianfranco Zola, lost 3-4 at home on New Year's Day, to Charlton Athletic. Prior to that defeat, the Hornets were unbeaten in three games but the really impressive statistic is that before the 1-2 home defeat to Hull City in early December, the side were unbeaten in seven games across all competitions; the run included a 6-1 hammering of Leeds United at Elland Road.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W W L W W
- Last Match: Manchester City 3 - 0 Stoke City
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): L W W D L
- Last Match: Watford 3 - 4 Charlton Athletic
City are likely to leave Mario Balotelli out, even though this is a perfect opportunity to give the Italy international some game time. The recent training ground fight with Mancini has only exacerbated an already poor relationship with his manager and despite his conciliatory comments afterwards, Balotelli is surely moving towards the exit at the Etihad.
Aside from Balotelli, City will also miss Argentina striker Sergio Aguero. The former Atletico Madrid star injured his hamstring in the match against Stoke City and is likely to be out for a few weeks. French playmaker Samir Nasri is also unavailable, as he continues to serve a three-match suspension for his red card against Norwich City.
Ivory Coast internationals Yaya and Kolo Toure have both left to join their national team, ahead of the 2013 African Cup of Nations and the former Barcelona man, in particular, will be a massive loss. Expect former Real Madrid man Javi Garcia and England international Gareth Barry to assume increased importance in the centre of the pitch.
Other injured players include Serbian left-back Aleksandr Kolarov (groin), right-backs Maicon and Micah Richards (both knee) and summer signing Jack Rodwell (hamstring).
Expect some rotation for this game, as Mancini tries to keep key players fresh and out of the medical room. However, Watford can be a dangerous side and the Italian manager will not want to leave too many things to chance.
Probable Line-Up: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy; Barry, Garcia; Sinclair, Tevez, Milner; Dzeko
Watford will likely miss defender Fitz Hall (hamstring) and midfielder Connor Smith (knee) may add to Zola's selection problems. Fortunately, the rest of the squad is in pretty good shape. Former Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia faces a late test for a hamstring problem but will probably start the match.
Probable Line-Up: Almunia; Hoban, Ekstrand, Neuton, Cassetti; Chalobah, Hogg, Abdi, Pudil; Vydra, Deeney