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Adam Baker

Adam Baker writes

Posted Tuesday, January 23rd 2018

Johnson's challenge to his cup stars

Lee Johnson has laid down the challenge to his City players as the club looks to reach its first major cup final since 1909.

Speaking on BCTV, the head coach admitted he had witnessed excitement in the players’ faces in the build-up to the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg tie against Manchester City (7.45pm kick-off).

Trailing 2-1 from the first leg, City must overturn that scoreline to oust the current Premier League leaders and reach Wembley in February.

City have only ever featured in one major cup final, the 1909 FA Cup showpiece, and have twice been beaten in the League Cup semi-finals.

“This is where heroes are made,” Johnson told BCTV. "We’ve already seen Korey Smith and Joe Bryan etch their names into history. However, we haven’t come this far to only come this far.

“The players are excited…I can always tell.

“It’s another big game and we’ve had so many of them. The fans are getting good value and the players are putting in good performances to a worldwide media.

“The players are tactically ready and it’s good that we were able to play on Friday and give the players an extra day to rest and prepare. Little things like that matter at the level and intensity that we play at.

“It’s going to be a big night; a great game and we’re all looking forward to it.”

SLENDER LEAD FOR MAN CITY

Looking back on the first leg at the Etihad a fortnight ago, Johnson admits to feeling “a bit frustrated” by the outcome.

“I thought we deserved to come out of it with at least a draw,” said the City head coach, after Bobby Reid’s penalty was cancelled out by strikes from Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero.

“The players were excellent in how they applied themselves tactically.

“We had more chances than anyone else at the Etihad this season, which is a sign that the second will be a difficult game for them.”

WATCH THE FULL VIDEO ON BCTV

STRONG OPPONENTS

Johnson says Man City will have a “strong side” no matter who his opposite number Pep Guardiola selects to start.

He was also quick to play down speculation in the national newspapers of City becoming a regular feeder club for the Citizens.

He said: “With any loan, it has to be right for all parties. The relationship we have isn’t just about players coming on loan.

“Trust is earned over time. It’s about philosophy, people, facilities and more. For example I’ve been shown around Man City’s training ground and I could potentially take ideas from that for our proposed new facilities.

"We’ve already seen Korey Smith and Joe Bryan etch their names into history. However, we haven’t come this far to only come this far."

Head coach Lee Johnson

“I’m keen to dampen down a ‘huge link’ because it’s important we maintain our identity, but if we think a deal is right and it works for all parties then I hope we’d have a chance.”

As for City, Frank Fielding and Nathan Baker will be given late fitness checks on groin and ankle injuries respectively.

Ashton Gate will be a sea of colour as 22,000 flags will be spread across the stadium, to be waved in the lead-up to kick-off.

Johnson said: “The Man Utd atmosphere was the best I’ve experienced as a player or manager here.

“We want that as much as possible and need to go one better against Man City. We’re excited and we’ll do everything we can to make everyone proud.”

BCTV PRESS CONFERENCE COVERAGE