The strange sight of Newcastle United in an FA Cup quarter-final is maybe only surpassed by what has happened in these 117 days that have gone by, since the Magpies progressed to the sixth round (3-2 at West Brom on 3 March 2020).
Not many (any?) Newcastle fans would have believed that our team would still remain unbeaten in the FA Cup as we head towards July 2020.
Extraordinary times and who knows, maybe an extraordinary moment in NUFC history to go with it, if we dare to dream.
There would be nothing surprising about Newcastle United progressing through three rounds of the FA Cup if it wasn’t for the total embarrassing Mike Ashley era that had preceded it. The club actually having an official policy of not trying in cup competitions for many years under Ashley, leading to 12 years without ever winning more than one FA Cup game in a season.
For any other Premier League club, getting past two League One clubs (both needed replays and one extra time as well) and a Championship reserve side (West Brom played only one of their first team, making 10 changes) would have been seen as straightforward.
Credit to Steve Bruce for putting out strong teams in the competition but struggling through these three rounds / five matches has not exactly been impressive.
However, none of us will be complaining if Steve Bruce’s extraordinary luck (particularly in the Premier League) is carried through into this FA Cup tie. Or will they / we?
You see, with the no fans element due to the pandemic, many supporters are questioning just how much of a fairytale winning the FA Cup would be this season, with even some extremists wanting to lose to Man City because they believe continuing the cup competition without supporters is pointless.
Whilst it is true that there was no absolute financial or integrity of the competition reason(s) for finishing off the 2019/20 FA Cup, unlike the case with the Premier League, are we better off with or without there being an FA Cup conclusion and winner this season?
Undoubtedly, a majority would now be on the side of seeing the competition through, whilst at the same time accepting that this isn’t the same experience of doing it in the normal year. For Newcastle fans in particular, if by some miracle the Magpie were actually crowned 2020 FA Cup winners, the irony would be in the extreme with none of us there to see the trophy won.
However, first things first, can Newcastle United beat Manchester City?
After a strange spell of three defeats in four Premier League games in December 2018, Man City went on an extraordinary run, they played 28 games in the Premier League and domestic cups and won 27 of them.
Maybe even more extraordinary was the fact that it was Rafa’s Newcastle team who spoilt that perfect five month run, goals from Rondon and Ritchie giving NUFC a 2-1 win.
Manchester City aren’t that all dominant team, only on Thursday they lost against a not that special Chelsea side, despite fielding what looked the strongest available City eleven.
This season already, they have lost three times (two in league and one in League Cup) to a mediocre Man Utd side, as well as PL defeats this campaign to Spurs, Liverpool, Wolves (twice) and Norwich. Whilst of course Newcastle have already drawn 2-2 with them at St James Park, despite Man City twice taking the lead.
With Aguero out for the season and now Fernandinho suspended, Newcastle will also have been encouraged by the fact that despite two thirds Man City possession, it was one third Chelsea who had 10 shots on target to the two of Man City, the visitors looking fragile when the hosts managed to break. Set-pieces as well aren’t something that City enjoy defending.
We will all be socially distanced from the action in front of our TVs but once the match actually kicks off, can any of fail to be caught up in the moment and dreaming that this (very bizarre) year, the trophy drought could magically end, with the new owners in place in time to see the FA Cup lifted at Wembley…
Dare to dream.