Nigel Pearson eyes upset against former signing Riyad Mahrez’s Manchester City
Bristol City boss Nigel Pearson hopes to deliver a “sensational” FA Cup upset by knocking Manchester City and Riyad Mahrez, the player he considers his best signing, out of the competition.
Pearson introduced Mahrez to English football in January 2014 when he was in charge of Leicester, signing the Algeria forward from French club Le Havre for around £450,000.
Mahrez has gone on to have a glittering career, winning the Premier League title at Leicester in 2016 before making a £60million move to Manchester City two years later.
The 32-year-old has won another three Premier League titles, three League Cups, one FA Cup and has scored 75 goals during his time at the Etihad Stadium.
Asked if Mahrez was his best pound-for-pound signing ahead of Tuesday’s fifth-round tie, Pearson said: “I don’t think about them as being mine at all.
“When you’re at clubs and you do business to improve squads, it’s about improving squads.
“Without dismissing the question, he’s turned out to have an incredible career and he was a very exciting talent when we signed him.
“He’s gone on and proved what an outstanding footballer he is. I suppose the answer to your question is ‘yes’, but I didn’t want to use just one word.”
Bristol City, beaten by Pep Guardiola’s side in the semi-final of the 2018 League Cup, head into the Ashton Gate clash in good form.
The Robins have not lost in 2023 with a 12-match unbeaten run stretching back to Boxing Day and wins over Sky Bet Championship rivals Swansea and West Brom have taken them to this stage of the FA Cup.
January signings Anis Mehmeti and Harry Cornick are both cup-tied, and Pearson accepts upsetting the Premier League champions is a tall order.
“It will be sensational if something like that happens,” said Pearson, who skippered Middlesbrough in their 1997 FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea and meets Guardiola for the first time in his managerial career.
“They are an outstanding team and squad of players, with an elite manager who’s up there with the very best.
“It’s us against them. It’s not about managers, it’s not about me. The important thing is, we’ve won two cup ties and gained an exciting tie against a top side.
“It helps us as a football club, the chance of earning some revenue and hopefully it’s an occasion our fans will enjoy.”
The tie shines a spotlight on Bristol City’s highly-rated youngsters, including England Under-20 midfielder Alex Scott and forward Sam Bell.
Pearson said: “I want our young players to enjoy the opportunity of playing against such a good side.
“They are one of the best sides of the world, there is no point worrying too much about that.
“We’ve got to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. The bottom line is, to play with the same sort of energy levels that we’re capable of.”