Man City deserve more than being cast as Liverpool spoilers
2: 53 PM ET
After Liverpool’s draw with Tottenham Hotspur and City’s 5-0 win over Newcastle United this weekend, Pep Guardiola’s side need seven points from their last three games to win the title for the fourth time in the past five years. If they do it — and with two weeks of the season left, it’s still “if” — it would be a feat only previously achieved in the Premier League era by Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. It’s a historic achievement that should be celebrated.
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Jurgen Klopp’s team have already ensured they will play in every game available to them this season — impressive in itself — and could yet end the campaign with the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and Champions League trophies. They will be the dominant force in English football if they can win the Premier League. Guardiola took a dig at Merseyside after City’s consistent success.
“Everyone in this country supports Liverpool, the media and everyone,” the City manager said. “Of course because Liverpool has an incredible history behind in European competition — not in Premier Leagues, because they’ve won one in 30 years — but it’s not a problem at all.
” The situation is as it is. We need to get nine points, or maybe six, depending on what happens in the next two games. But Wednesday is the real final.
” We will try to win there. Our destiny is in our control and this is crucial. We must look at ourselves. Nothing can be changed if you only focus on one or three things. We must do it. “
It’s testament to how quickly football can change that a game against Newcastle that was meant to be a test of City’s mental strength following their heartbreaking Champions League exit to Real Madrid ended up being an opportunity to put one hand on the Premier League trophy. Guardiola spent his usual Friday news conference talking about the possible psychological scars left by the late capitulation at the Bernabeu, but as it turned out, the best tonic was a Son Heung-Min goal at Anfield.
Tottenham’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Saturday night eased the pressure ahead of Newcastle’s visit to the Etihad, and a fixture that could have been awkward was negotiated with relative ease. The visitors probably should have taken the lead when Chris Wood was presented with a free header six yards out, but it was the only scare during an otherwise comfortable afternoon. Raheem Sterling (2), Aymeric Laporte, Rodri and Phil Foden got the goals, and with three games to play, City are three points clear at the top.
Flights back from Madrid on Thursday morning were full of supporters concerned that the chastening experience in the Champions League might prompt an implosion in the title race, but by the time Sterling scored after 19 minutes, chants of “champions, champions” were reverberating around the Etihad. Lifting the mood shouldn’t be a problem ahead of the trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday.
Win at Molineux and at West Ham United on Sunday and City would need a point from their final game against Aston Villa to be crowned champions again. This is a team that was supposed to be having a good time.
” Do you have any doubts about what this team has done? Guardiola asked. It was a perfect afternoon. We have been doing this for five years, and we do it every three days. We are five years old and we do this every three days. It’s one the best teams I have ever trained with in my entire life.
“Three goals, nine points to play, four more than the goal difference. Another final on Wednesday [against Wolves]. We are so close to Liverpool that a goal difference could happen. It was crucial that we win.
“Hopefully we can arrive at the Aston Villa game on the final day of the season with the destiny of the Premier League in our hands. We have had to play some very difficult games before this game. We will try. “
Guardiola says he might never get over the disappointment of Madrid. It is hard to accept a Champions League semifinal defeat. However, another Premier League victory — possibly back-to-back titles — is more than a consolation.
Nobody has come as close to a quadruple in the Premier League as Liverpool, but it is important to remember that City is also within reach of their own piece of history.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.