Manchester City overcame their season’s biggest hurdle last night as they cruised to a 2-0 victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Pep Guardiola’s team are now on a remarkable run of 11 consecutive victories in the Premier League eclipsing Liverpool once again by a point, with three games left to play. According to bookmakers, City are now 1.25 to win the league, which suggests that a £10 bet calculates as £2.50 in winnings.
Manchester United, having been humiliated at Goodison Park on Sunday, were expected to give a solid reaction in Wednesday’s derby. Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard made some clever runs to trouble the City backline in the opening half hour, but Pep Guardiola’s men ultimately prevailed in the second half. Bernardo Silva’s near-post finish and Leroy Sane’s arrowing shot ensured that the current English champions were still on course for an unprecedented domestic treble.
Manchester City’s dramatic exit from the Champions League at the hands of Tottenham last week could turn out to be significantly vital for Pep Guardiola in the last phase of the season. Elimination from Europe means that the Blues only have four games until the end of the season, including a trio of Premier League matches and a FA Cup final against Watford. Liverpool, on the other hand, have to play two heavyweight semi-final legs against Barcelona sandwiched between crucial Premier League encounters.
City travel to Burnley on Sunday in the first of the three remaining matches which could decide the fate of the title. The Clarets have overturned their early season misfortunes and sit rather comfortably at 15th place in the league table, a handsome nine points above the relegation zone. Pep Guardiola, in his post-match interview yesterday, was quick to express the threat Sean Dyche’s men pose ahead of Sunday’s must-win encounter.
“I told the players: ‘don’t read [the newspapers] tomorrow, don’t watch the television, just rest, sleep a lot and go in there against Burnley,” he said.
Guardiola highlighted that his two visits to Burnley have been extremely difficult, who were one of the few teams who took points off his team in last season’s historic “centurion” season. Burnley famously denied Manchester United a title in 2009, and have remarkably claimed victories against reigning champions in every single of their Premier League campaigns.
“Maybe tonight we can enjoy it, but tomorrow it’s over, it’s gone, so we have to be focused. I know people are going to talk about how beautiful we are, how handsome we are, like this, like that, but now we have to go to Burnley – and in my two previous seasons going to Burnley was incredibly tough”, said the Spaniard.
Manchester City then have a much-needed week-long break before they entertain a resurgent Leicester side on Monday night. Brendan Rodgers appointment in February has made the Foxes a formidable side once again and are on course for another top-half finish. Rodgers will surely be looking forward to inflict an upset at the Etihad after his Liverpool team lost the title to Manchester City by two points in the 2013-14 season.
The final match-week sees Manchester City travel to relegation-threatened Brighton, who are only three points above 18th placed Cardiff. Chris Hughton’s side could well and truly be fighting for survival come the final day of the season, which makes it all-the-more difficult for Pep Guardiola and his team. City faced Brighton earlier this month in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, and could only fork out a hard-fought 1-0 win after the Seagulls gave them a tough battle. Brighton’s resilience coupled with their excellent defensive record could potentially spoil City’s title-party.
Rivals Liverpool, meanwhile, have a home fixture against already-relegated Huddersfield Town, a tricky away trip to St. James’ Park to face Newcastle and a final day home encounter against Wolves. Jurgen Klopp’s men are tipped to win all the three remaining games to take their tally to a staggering 96 points. Manchester City, however, with three wins, will end on 97 and could clinch the title with only a single point. Whatever happens, this season will surely be remembered to give us one of the most remarkable title-races in Premier League history.