Sylvain Distin is one of the finest defenders to wear the star and crescent on his chest. But the Pompey favourite faces a striker in fine form on his return
to Fratton Park in Marc McNulty.
John Arkless sizes up the key battle...
Sylvain Distin was influential in helping Pompey to FA Cup glory in 2008 and led his team against players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.
Seven years after his last appearance at Fratton Park, he is back with Bournemouth.
Pompey’s new star striker, Marc McNulty, will be looking to ensure it is not a happy return for the Frenchman.
Since arriving at Pompey on loan from Sheffield United in early November, McNulty has been playing regularly and is one of the first names on Paul Cook’s teamsheet.
Distin, however, has played just 25 Premier League minutes in two months, and his last performance was three weeks ago.
McNulty will look to exploit Distin’s lack of match fitness to gain the upper hand.
Not only has McNulty been playing much more than Distin, but he has also been in fine form.
Six goals in his first 10 league games, as well as the decisive goal in the third-round replay over Ipswich, means McNulty is currently one of League Two’s hottest strikers.
Distin has appeared in heavy defeats against Spurs and Manchester City this season.
No va va voom?
Distin was in the prime of his career when he dominated the Pompey back line between 2007 and 2009 with masterly performances which make him one of the best defenders to wear a blue shirt.
Nearly a decade on, the 38-year-old Frenchman is past his best.
McNulty, 15 years his junior, will look to exploit the loss of pace and physicality Distin has suffered over time.
McNulty has been great for Pompey this season, but he did waste a couple of chances in the third-round replay against Ipswich.
He was his own harshest critic over that.
Playing against a Premier League defence, opportunities in front of goal will be at a premium so it is vital he has his shooting boots on if Pompey are to deliver an FA Cup upset.
McNulty’s excellent scoring record for Pompey is mainly down to his prolific nature when playing in front of the Fratton Park crowd.
All but one of his goals since arriving have come on home soil, including a hat-trick against York in November.
Distin will know all about the rocking atmosphere that awaits the Premier League outfit for the sell-out fourth-round clash.