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Man City’s perfect season scenario
Tuesday, 20th Mar 2018 09:51

While many pundits were predicting that Man City would mount a strong challenge this season, few imagined that they would prove to be so dominant. Sixteen points clear at the top of the Premier League table with eight games to go, they have owned the division from the first game, and along the way have produced some of the best football seen in the top flight since the days of the Arsenal Invincibles in the early 2000s.

There were hints during the last campaign of what they could achieve – in the six-game winning streak at the start of the season and the eight-game undefeated run at the end – but Pep Guardiola’s methods are not simple and can’t be picked up in the space of a few weeks. Last year, the City machine was coughing and spluttering on occasions. This year, it has been running as smoothly and stylishly as a sky-blue Rolls Royce.

All of the minor faults that slowed them down last season have been corrected. Kyle Walker and Danilo have added pace and dynamism in the full-back positions, Kevin De Bruyne has attained Pirlo-esque status as the dominant playmaker in Europe, and Sergio Agüero has been his usual unstoppable self. Even Raheem Sterling has come to the party!

The result is that City are not only strolling to the most impressive Premier League win in the last 15 seasons, but they are still in line for a historic treble. With the Carabao Cup already in the trophy cabinet, the Champions League trophy is getting closer and bookmakers have drastically shortened their odds on City becoming champions of Europe, ranking them as second favourites behind Barcelona. City fans who fancy a wager on Stakers.com will also find that they are slight favourites to win the first leg of their last-eight match at Anfield.

Knocking Liverpool out of the Champions League en route to lifting that particular piece of silverware would be a pleasing result, though not as enjoyable as despatching Mourinho’s lot would have been, had they made it past Sevilla. Still, the fixture list has thrown up a delicious alternative possibility to delight the imagination of City fans – that we might clinch the title on 7th April at the Etihad against our dear neighbours from Old Trafford.

In fact, such a scenario seems distinctly possible. Assuming that we win our next Premier League game away to Everton on 31st March, then it doesn’t matter what United do in their next fixture against Swansea. Come the first Saturday in April, City will have the chance to seal their third Premier League title at the expense of United, with Mourinho and all the United fans forced to look on. Could anything be sweeter than that?

Wrapping up the league at the earliest possible opportunity by winning the next two matches would have another advantage. That game against United comes between the two legs of the Champions League quarter-final against Liverpool. With the league put to bed, City can then focus all their energies on progressing in Europe and delivering the trophy that will signal our arrival as a major European football power, and underline our dominance.

Beating Liverpool won’t be easy. They are the only Premier League side to beat City this season, and they have a manager with Champions League final experience. However, these are the games that Guardiola has been building towards, and he will have his players looking forward to this run of fixtures that will go a long way towards defining the season.

With the Premier League won and Liverpool knocked out of Europe, the question will then be: who do we want in the semi-finals? There is no avoiding tough opponents in the last four of the Champions League, so the ideal scenario would be a semi-final against Barcelona, the side that knocked City out of Europe in 2014 and 2015, and a final against Real Madrid. Overcoming Barça and then knocking Real off their Champions League perch would be the perfect way to signal the changing of the European guard.

The only disappointment in a stellar season so far was that bad-tempered FA Cup exit at Wigan, which has denied City the opportunity to land an unprecedented – and scarcely believable – quadruple. Perhaps next time. For this season, there remains the chance to score an incredible treble, the first in the club’s history, and maybe the first of many in what future football historians will hopefully call the Golden Guardiola era.

Photo: Action Images

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