Manchester City’s FA Cup tie with Championship strugglers Barnsley today could take on extra importance following Manchester United’s elimination from the Champions League.
City manager Roberto Mancini had hoped United would progress at the expense of Real Madrid this week to provide a distraction from their increasingly strong Premier League title march.
City need to overturn a 12-point deficit in just 10 games to retain their title and with United now concentrating fully on domestic matters, the FA Cup seems their best hope of silverware.
Mancini said: “It is clear now it is worse for us because they can put all their strength in the championship.
“It was better they stayed in the Champions League. When you play an important game every three days, it is more difficult.
“But it was difficult (for us) before the game against Madrid.
“I think they have an advantage because 12 points are too much but our job is to try until the end of the season. This is our job. I think it is important to be strong in a difficult moment.”
Mancini raised expectations at City when he guided them to FA Cup glory in 2011, ending a 35-year trophy drought.
The Italian, who has fielded strong sides in the previous rounds against Watford, Stoke and Leeds, is intent on a repeat victory.
He said: “It is my opinion that for a team like us it is very important to win something every year.
“It is better if it is Premier League or Champions League or Europa League but the FA Cup is important.”
The other way of looking at United’s European exit – and a potential FA Cup defeat to Chelsea tomorrow – is that it could knock their season off the rails.
Mancini concedes he cannot see that happening.
He said: “We hope but we don’t know this. Sometimes it is possible but they are strong enough.”
Barnsley travel to the Etihad Stadium as rank outsiders – some bookmakers quote odds as long as 18-1 on a Tykes victory – due to their position in the Championship relegation zone.
Although Mancini will not be risking key players Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero due to injury, he will not be taking the game lightly.
He said: “These games are difficult because they don’t have anything to lose and everyone can think it will be easy.
“I have watched Barnsley and it is clear they are not Real Madrid, but these games are strange.
“I don’t think many people thought Arsenal could go out in a game against Bradford (in the Capital One Cup).”