The lacklustre reaction when Fulham were paired with Manchester City in the draw for the FA Cup fourth round said it all. It isn’t just the fact that this will be a fourth trip to the Etihad Stadium in four years – but that Pep Guardiola’s side exist almost on another footballing plain to everyone else in England. Marco Silva admitted as much during yesterday’s pre-match press conference: it feels as we’ve all rather run out of superlatives to describe Guardiola, which seems simultaneously both contemptuous of his remarkable impact on the British game and, yet, rather apt.

As much as we’d love to have a serious crack at the FA Cup, getting back to the Premier League – and preparing to make a decent fist of staying there this time – has to be the priority for Fulham this season. Silva was adamant that a chance to test his team against Guardiola’s in a competition like this would never be a distraction, but there should be some squad rotation with Tuesday’s meeting with Millwall at Craven Cottage in mind. Credit, at least, to the Fulham fans not put off by a succession of hammerings at the Etihad in recent seasons – around 3,000 will make the journey north tomorrow, definitely more in hope than expectation.

The first target will be to make the contest last longer than it took Tim Ream to get sent off on our visit two years ago. The American veteran saw red for bringing down Gabriel Jesus after just six minutes – and it quickly became a matter of how many Manchester City wanted to score against ten men. Quite laudably, both Silva and Tosin Adarabioyo – who is relishing the tie against his boyhood club – have spoken of their desire to play Fulham’s fluent and adventurous style of football even against such devastating opposition, which could easily make for another lopsided scoreline – such is City’s quality in the final third.

There will be a few interesting elements to Silva’s team selection. Some of the suspense has already been removed as the Portuguese head coach has confirmed that Paulo Gazzaniga will return in goal. A break might not be such a bad thing for Marek Rodak, who has come in for criticism as the Whites conceded a number of soft goals in January. There should be a debut for deadline day arrival Neco Williams – with the Liverpool loanee likely to deputise for the injured Kenny Tete after Denis Odoi’s surprise departure to Club Brugge. Silva may even be tempted to break up his regular central defensive partnership, with both Michael Hector and Alfie Mawson short on game time.

Jean Michael Seri is available having completed a week’s worth of training back at Motspur Park after his African Cup of Nations exploits with the Ivory Coast. Whether a midfield twosome of Seri and skipper Tom Cairney is too adventurous against the pass masters of Manchester City will be something that Silva will have to weigh up. Harrison Reed has looked a little leggy of late, whilst Nathaniel Chalobah arguably needs the game time for us to discover whether he can add more bite against a top quality side.

It would also be worth giving Rodrigo Muniz, who was sensational in the win at Stoke, another opportunity to impress on the big stage. The Brazilian striker seems like someone who thrives on the limelight and his pace could be better suited to a game where Fulham are unlikely to have as much of the ball as they have been used to in the Championship this season. We all know what Aleksandar Mitrovic can do – and the Serbian deserves an afternoon off after his quite incredible goalscoring exploits this season.

Guardiola will contemplate just how strong he wants to go in the coming hours having revealed that Jesus will miss out after returning from international duty with a knock. Cole Palmer, so composed in the third round win at Swindon, is also out injured but worryingly the City boss described Riyad Mahrez as being in ‘perfect’ condition after the African Cup of Nations. The fundamental truth is that whoever he elects to put on the field tomorrow afternoon will represent Fulham’s most formidable test of the season.

MY FULHAM XI (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Williams, Bryan, Hector, Adarabioyo; Chalobah, Seri; Wilson, Kebano, Carvalho; Muniz. Subs: Rodak, Mawson, Ream, Reed, Onomah, Cairney, Cavaleiro, Knockaert Mitrovic.