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FA Cup: Pep prepped for Robins challenge

Manchester City put their reputation on the line with a potentially tricky trip to League Two high-fliers Swindon Town in a classic David-and-Goliath start to FA Cup third-round weekend.

It is ten years since Cit, the 2019 FA Cup winners under Guardiola last fell in round three and at 1/12 to win inside 90 minutes at the County Ground and 1/25 to qualify (remember, we're straight to extra-time and penalties), there aren't many suspecting Wiltshire will be the scene of the weekend's biggest shock.

Swindon, who last made it to round four back in 2011-12, have got promotion from League Two as their No.1 priority, but this is one of those once-in-a-career moments for many of Ben Garner's side.

The fourth tier side will relish the prospect of pitting their wits against some of the world's finest footballers, but at 90-minute odds of 20/1, the prices suggest the party ends here.

Robins can look to neighbours for inspiration

With a record of one win and three semi-final appearances in Guardiola's five years at the helm, Manchester City clearly go deep in this competition, despite often having to juggle it with league and European commitments.

Yet they have had their problems as well, and it won't be lost on Swindon that a trio of League Two teams have tested Pep's boys more than most over the previous five campaigns.

In a fifth round tie at serial giantkillers Newport County in 2018-19, they were being held to a 0-0 draw by the Exiles up until the 51st minute before going on to win 4-1.

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A year later it was Port Vale's turn to frustrate City - they were 1-1 at the Etihad until the stroke of half time before the hosts turned on the afterburners, again winning 4-1.

And last season it was Cheltenham Town's turn to frighten the Manchester giants to death in round four, going ahead through Alfie May on the hour and staying in front until nine minutes from time before City struck thrice to break the home side's hearts.

County Ground contest should produce a goal feast

The common denominators running through those three ties are that City won them all, both teams scored and there were plenty of goals.

City and both teams to score is a 15/8 shot, over 2.5 goals and both teams to score a 13/8 chance and a City win and over 3.5 goals is 4/6. All three options should make some appeal.

City's five third-round ties under Guardiola have produced the grand total of 25 goals and they are on a run of form which has seen them put seven past Leeds United, six past Leicester City and beat Newcastle United 4-0.

And Swindon showed they too can bare their teeth just last weekend when up against Northampton Town, one of the basement's better defences, they ran out 5-2 winners with Harry McKirdy bagging four.

The in-form Robins frontman is 25/1 to open the scoring and may be worth a nibble each-way. Padraig Amond (Newport), Tom Pope (Port Vale) and May (Cheltenham) have all scored against City, so why can't McKirdy write his name into club folklore by breaching one of the best defences in the world?

Second guessing City team selection could be key

There isn't much that connects Swindon and City, but they are joined in being disadvantaged by the Africa Cup of Nations.

Swindon's Ghanaian keeper Jojo Wollacott has flown out to Cameroon to represent his country, while City's Algeria skipper Riyad Mahrez is also out there.

Suffice to say Swindon are the more disadvantaged of the two with City having cover galore for Mahrez, despite a number of absentees having been confirmed on Thursday.

Guardiola is sure to ring the changes though he can afford to go strong - they have an eight-day break after this before taking on Chelsea in the Premier League.

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