LONDON • Such is the enormous task that lies ahead of Port Vale's trip to the Etihad that their manager John Askey has not bothered to scout Manchester City, their FA Cup third-round opponents today.
He is fully aware of what the Premier League champions are capable of, like their 8-0 home thrashing of Watford in September.
But City's inconsistency this season and the likelihood that manager Pep Guardiola will rotate his squad, as the first leg of their League Cup semi-final with Manchester United comes just three days later, gives him hope his third-tier side can do the unthinkable.
Drawing inspiration from third-tier Oxford, who gave City a fright before losing 3-1 in their League Cup quarter-final meeting, Askey told The Telegraph yesterday: "It's fruitless (to study them).
"(But) I watched the Oxford game and that is more realistic. Hopefully, we add to the occasion. Hopefully, one or two of theirs have been thinking about what they've had for their Christmas dinner."
Paying tribute to the effect Guardiola has had on English football, he added: "Pep's changed this country massively.
"The goalkeeper now starts play to the centre-halves and everyone is expected to play. That never used to happen and now it goes throughout the leagues at all levels.
LOOKING FOR LUCK
It's fruitless (to study them). Hopefully, we add to the occasion. Hopefully, one or two of theirs have been thinking about what they've had for their Christmas dinner.
JOHN ASKEY, Port Vale manager, hoping that a superior City side will have a bad day.
"In our league, Forest Green take it to the extent that Man City do. Swindon do too. They try to emulate what City do. Myself and the players try to take things from it and try to do things the right way and be effective."
FA Cup champions City have been on the receiving end of an upset by a lower-league side before. In 2015, they lost 2-0 at home to second-tier Middlesbrough in the fourth round. But that was before Guardiola took over the reins in 2016.
FA CUP 3RD ROUND
Ties involving Premier League teams
Burnley v Peterborough Singtel TV Ch111, 8.25pm
Rochdale v Newcastle
Southampton v Huddersfield Ch111, 10.55pm
Brighton v Sheffield Wednesday Ch113, 10.55pm
Fulham v Aston Villa Ch112, 10.55pm
Watford v Tranmere Rovers
Preston North End v Norwich Bournemouth v Luton Town
Leicester v Wigan Ch113, tomorrow, 1.25am
Wolves v Manchester United Ch111, tomorrow, 1.25am
Manchester City v Port Vale Ch112, tomorrow, 1.25am
Crystal Palace v Derby County Chelsea v Nottingham Forest Ch111, 9.55pm
Middlesbrough v Tottenham Ch112, 9.55pm
Sheffield United v Fylde Ch113, 9.55pm
Liverpool v Everton Ch111, 11.55pm
Gillingham v West Ham Ch112, Monday, 2.10am
Arsenal v Leeds United Ch111, Tuesday, 3.55am
Under the Spaniard, the hosts have won all four of their FA Cup matches at the Etihad by an aggregate score of 21-2.
Port Vale are languishing in 10th place in League Two, but club president John Rudge will be lending some of his giant-killing expertise to Askey.
He was part of the minnows that shocked Tottenham 2-1 in the fourth round of the 1988 FA Cup and he said that while it "will be incredibly difficult for us, it's not an impossible task".
Rudge yesterday told The Sun: "We've had some great times in the FA Cup and this will be a great occasion for the club.
"City are a tremendous football team and, compared to what it was like when we beat Spurs, the difference between the Premier League and the league we play in is massive, (but) we're looking forward to it ."