It seems every game left in the Premier League schedule is a must-win game for Manchester City. Sitting fourth in the standings and looking to secure their presence in the UEFA Champions League next season, the Citizens hosted reigning Champions Leicester City in an effort to take another step toward the UCL. And they only needed seven minutes to build a lead they would never relinquish.
Quick goals from David Silva and Gabriel Jesus in the first game would be everything City would need to secure the three points. Shinji Okazaki cut City’s lead in half, but it would not be enough. Pep Guardiola’s men secured another important win at home, and they depend on themselves to reach the Champions ahead of the 2017-18 season.
Here are four things we learned about Saturday’s contest played at Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City remain a dominant side playing at Etihad Stadium
Several experts have talked about how this season has been a complete failure for Manchester City. After all, the Citizens were ready to mount a title challenge, but that did not happen. They could not reach the final stages in the Champions League. They did not win the Capital One Cup, and lost in the FA Cup semifinals against Arsenal. However, if there is one thing we have seen throughout the year, is that City remain quite a force when playing in their own venue.
Manchester City have lost just once at home this season, and it was a 1-3 defeat to Chelsea back in December last year. They are riding an 11-game undefeated streak at Etihad, and that is one of the main reasons why the club is still alive on the race to finish in the top four. If we include all competitions, then City only have suffered one defeat in 24 matches. Once again, City showed team need to respect them when playing at Etihad.
The Citizens took a huge step toward securing a Champions League berth
Right now, Manchester City’s main goal is to secure a Champions League berth as soon as possible. And Saturday’s win against the Foxes was a huge step in the right direction. Basically, the three points mean that City depend entirely on themselves to clinch a Champions League spot in the 2017-18 campaign.
With two games left to play, Pep Guardiola’s men moved into third place with 72 points, two clear over Liverpool and five behind Tottenham although the Spurs have a game in hand. Mauricio Pochettino’s men could clinch the second place with a win against Manchester United tomorrow, but now City have the edge over the Reds, Arsenal, and the Red Devils. Even if Arsenal and Manchester United win, they would be three and four points behind City, respective. And with six left to play for, that seems like a big difference to mount back.
City needs to maintain their two-point edge over Liverpool in the remaining games. If that happens, they would clinch a berth for the Champions League group stage. And considering how the season has happened, that would be quite a success for Guardiola in his first Premier League campaign.
Shinji Okazaki scored one of the best goals of the Premier League season
Okazaki’s goal might have been nothing more than a consolation prize. But we can not deny it was one of the best strikes we have seen in the Premier League this season.
Following a cross from Marc Albrighton, Okazaki blasted an impressive volley from inside the box that left Willy Caballero helpless. It was not enough for Leicester, but this goal surely appear among the contenders for Goal of the Season once everything is said and done.
The future is bright for Pep Guardiola’s men
City’s starting lineup for this game had several young players in it. Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus are all 25 or under. Sergio Aguero is only 28, which means he is only entering his prime. Same with Nicolas Otamendi (29). But the real story here is the presence of Sane, Sterling, and Jesus.
If the Citizens decide to give continuity to Guardiola’s project, then we could see one of the top attacking trios in Europe as soon as next season. The numbers might not impress when looking at Sterling’s or De Bruyne’s stats for the season, but it is difficult to argue that they are loaded with potential. Meanwhile, Gabriel Jesus has impressed everyone with how quickly he adapted to the pace of the Premier League. The 20-year-old Brazilian striker has everything to become one of the top players in the world in only a few years. And if City can handle his progression accordingly, we might be on the verge to see just the surface of what he can do.
With him in the lineup alongside the likes of Sane, De Bruyne, and Sterling, there is no doubt the club have a bright future. Even if this season did not go according to the expectations.
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