MANCHESTER: Little over 60 hours after their extraordinary Champions League drama, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur will face each other again at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, this time in the Premier League.
City’s dream of a quadruple of titles ended with their away-goals loss after Wednesday’s second-leg ended with a 4-3 win, but a 4-4 aggregate score.
The destiny of the Premier League remains in the hands of Pep Guardiola’s side, however, and they know that if they win their remaining five games they will retain their title.
Yet this is now a major test of their character after what was a crushing exit from Europe — with a late goal from Raheem Sterling, which would have sent City through, ruled out for offside following a VAR video review.
“We have to stand up, we have to react,” said Guardiola. “But don’t think too much right now, sleep as much as possible and then we will prepare for the game.”
City have won the League Cup and are in the final of the FA Cup, meaning a treble remains a realistic objective.
“We fought a lot in the last nine or 10 months for the Premier League. We are still there, it is in our hands. Of course it is tough, but we have to do it until the end,” added Guardiola.
City are two points behind leaders Liverpool, but have a game in hand — although that fixture is against local rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford next Wednesday.
If they can remove the emotion from the Champions League loss, City will draw heart from the fact that they dominated large parts of the game, enjoying 66 percent possession and 20 shots to Spurs’ 11.
While Mauricio Pochettino’s options are limited by injuries, including to attacking fulcrum Harry Kane, Guardiola has plenty of fresh alternatives to call on, including German winger Leroy Sane, who did not feature until the 84th minute on Wednesday.
Third-placed Spurs have plenty to play for as well — the battle for a top-four finish and qualification for the Champions League is tight with Arsenal and Chelsea just a point behind and sixth-placed Manchester United only three points adrift.
Such was the drama at the Etihad that Liverpool’s serene progress to the Champions League semi-finals with a 4-1 win in Porto went largely unnoticed.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have now won eight consecutive games in all competitions and do not look likely to crumble under the pressure of delivering a first top-flight title for 29 years should City slip up.
A Champions League semi-final with Barcelona awaits, but first the Reds travel to Cardiff City on Sunday.
Liverpool have on paper a much more comfortable run-in than City. However, Cardiff have plenty to play for themselves having beaten Brighton & Hove Albion in midweek to haul themselves back to within two points of safety.
Arsenal will expect three points from a home fixture with Crystal Palace and Chelsea will want the same from their meeting with Burnley on Easter Monday.
United, smarting from their Champions League exit to Barcelona, have a tricky trip to Everton on Sunday.
Saturday (1400GMT unless stated): Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur (1130GMT), West Ham United v Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers v Brighton & Hove Albion, Bournemouth v Fulham, Huddersfield Town v Watford, Newcastle United v Southampton (1630GMT). Sunday: Everton v Manchester United (1230GMT), Arsenal v Crystal Palace, Cardiff City v Liverpool (both 1500GMT).
Monday: Chelsea v Burnley (1900GMT).
Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2019