Peter Swan: Bruce will pick strong Hull City side to see off struggling Barnsley and end January on a high
UNLESS we're about to see Hull City emulate Bradford City and march all the way to Wembley this season, the FA Cup will always play second fiddle to the Championship.
Compare the money on offer for a place in the Premier League with the cash you stand to earn from a cup run and it's no contest I'm afraid.
Steve Bruce's focus has definitely been on the promotion race when you look at the two sides that faced Leyton Orient in the third round, but he will know today's FA Cup tie with Barnsley still represents a big opportunity for City to recapture some lost form.
We've not seen the best from the Tigers since the superb 2-0 win over Leeds United almost four weeks ago.
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It's hardly been a disaster for a side that still sits third in the Championship, but the standards set during the final game of 2012 have not been matched this month.
We're looking at the possible start of a sticky patch and the sooner it comes to an end the better.
That's why I think we'll see Bruce field a pretty strong side for the Barnsley game as he tries to get a bit of rhythm back into this team.
A fourth round tie at home to a struggling Barnsley side won't have any direct impact on the Tigers' promotion push, but it can help lift spirits before two tough league games at Millwall and Brighton next month.
An FA Cup defeat this weekend would only invite pressure and Bruce will be keen to avoid that.
I think we'll perhaps see a side that's about 75 per cent full-strength. We might see a few players sit out again – Robert Koren springs to mind – but there's players who need a run together.
Nick Proschwitz and Jay Simpson, more than anyone, need a game.
They both have their strengths as individuals but we've not seen much of an understanding when they've played together.
That only comes with games and Bruce is not blessed with too many attacking options.
Alex Bruce and Paul McShane also deserve to keep their places.
They earned their starts at Peterborough after two good games against Leyton Orient and will not want to let their starting positions go.
David Stockdale being cup-tied means another chance for Eldin Jakupovic in goal but whoever comes in should have enough quality to get past Barnsley.
The Tykes are having a difficult season, no doubt about it.
Their priority will be on staying in the Championship, rather than getting out of it, but a win at the KC Stadium would give them a boost too.
New manager David Flitcroft has come in to replace Keith Hill and won a chance until the end of the season.
He won't win any long-term contracts on the back of an FA Cup run but a good few results would be hugely welcomed back in the Oakwell boardroom.
We'll not know how big this weekend's game will be until the fifth round draw is made on Sunday.
Picking out Leyton Orient and Barnsley have not done much to set pulses racing, but whoever can win a place in the last 16 suddenly stands a chance of pulling out a Premier League giant.
Who would say 'no' to facing Manchester United, Manchester City or Arsenal in the fifth round? So long as you can get through the fourth round, and City will certainly fancy their chances against Barnsley at home, then anything is possible.
First things first and today is a chance for Bruce to get his side back to winning ways.
Every time he's faced a little blip this season he's made the decisions to put things right.
You can't fault the manager for that and a victory over Barnsley would ensure a difficult month at the KC Stadium ends on a high.