AHEAD of his first visit to the John Smith’s Stadium, Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola last night admitted to being wary about a pitch that stages both football and rugby league.
Town share their home with Huddersfield Giants, who were in Super League action on Thursday at home to Salford Red Devils.
The surface has, in fact, been in good condition all season after considerable investment in the stadium’s facilities, such as lighting rigs to help the grass grow, but this has not stopped Guardiola voicing concern ahead of his side’s visit.
“I saw (on Thursday), someone sent me a picture of the pitch,” said the Manchester City manager. “It was not perfect. I think (yesterday after the rugby match) it will be worse, but I understand.
“Huddersfield are playing at home. It is their stadium and they can do whatever they want. Robbie Williams is coming here to our stadium to play a concert (next summer), so everyone can use their stadium as they want. We are going to adapt.”
City’s FA Cup fortunes in West Yorkshire are mixed, their seven previous visits having yielded two wins and three exits.
Their most infamous trip across the Pennines came in 1980 when Halifax Town, then of the Fourth Division, humbled Malcolm Allison’s top-flight side on a mudbath of a pitch at The Shay thanks to Paul Hendrie’s strike.
Two years earlier, City beat Leeds United 2-1 in a third-round tie that was marred by violence as play was held up for 15 minutes. Their most recent visit was an altogether happier affair, Huddersfield being beaten 3-0 in a second replay at Leeds Road in 1988.
As a club, the Blues have changed a lot since those days, but Guardiola added: “Huddersfield are a very intense team, very aggressive. They make good transitions and have really interesting players.”