During his press conference on Tuesday, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola admitted that he would be supporting Manchester United in their Premier League clash with arch-rivals Liverpool that evening.
As it turned out, it was optimistic of Guardiola – and any City fan for that matter – to hope for United to do City a favor. Liverpool steamrolled their sorry opponents 4-0 with a brilliant display of fluid, attacking football, leapfrogging City to the top of the table in the process.
Liverpool now sit top of the pile ahead of City’s home match against Brighton this evening, with the Blues two points behind but with a game in-hand. Win tonight and Guardiola’s side will be one point ahead with six games remaining for both clubs.
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Just a few weeks ago, after City had let a seemingly unassailable lead at the top of the table slip, there was a feeling that there were still plenty of twists and turns to come in a title race that might be even tighter than in 2018 / 19.
Despite City’s lead evaporating, there was a sense of calm brought by the idea that Jurgen Klopp’s side were bound to drop points at some point. But after seeing Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and co slice through Benfica, City and United in the space of a week, it seems increasingly unlikely that Liverpool will slip up before the season’s end.
On paper, Liverpool have a slightly harder run-in than City, but in their current form they are capable of beating any side in the world by at least two goals.
That’s a scary prospect for City, especially given the fact that Guardiola’s side have not always looked entirely convincing over the past couple of months. Still, Liverpool’s terrific form the only points they have dropped in the last three months came in the 2-2 draw at the Etihad – in a way makes things much simpler for City.
We now have to assume that Liverpool will take all 18 points from their remaining league fixtures. That will give them a final points total of 94; only in four Premier League seasons would not have been enough points to be crowned champions.
On multiple occasions in recent weeks, Guardiola has insisted that he and his teams are solely focused on their own performances and results, adopting a next-game-up mentality to avoid overcomplicating things.
If that message had not already sunk in with all of his players and City supporters, then it surely will do now. Win their remaining seven matches and City will win a sixth Premier League crown with a points total of 95.
It’s a big ask, especially when you consider the injury issues Guardiola has to deal with, as well as the small matter of a Champions League semi-final against serial winners Real Madrid to juggle. But now, more than any other time since the end of 2018/19, is the time for tunnel vision.
If there is any team in the world that can fend off Liverpool’s assault, then it is City. They navigated a similar situation in 2018/19 and they can do so again. They just have to keep winning.