This past week has been a rough one for Pep Guardiola and his Citizens. Less than seven days ago, the Manchester City boss saw his team thrashed by Jurgen Klopp’s dominant Liverpool side. Goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane ensured a home victory for the Merseyside giants within 30-minutes of kick-off.
The week only got worse after the league leaders suffered their first home loss of the season at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. A thunderous header from Vincent Kompany and a side netted finish from Ilkay Gundogan put the home side comfortably ahead at halftime. However, a brace from Paul Pogba and a rare Chris Smalling volley completed the comeback in the second half.
A comeback against Liverpool to secure a spot in the Champions League semi-final would be the only saving grace for City. To most teams, a 3-0 defeat in the first leg would seem impossible to come back from, but nobody could write off Guardiola. After strategically resting some of his best players in the Manchester Derby only days before, his team were fresh and raring to go. Within the first two minutes, Gabriel Jesus put City ahead. An exciting first half almost saw Pep’s side level the aggregate score with a Bernardo Silva shot off the post and a Leroy Sane goal contentiously called offside.
Guardiola left the field at half-time frustrated, but never made his way back out of the tunnel after being sent to the stands by referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz. That was it for City, and in the 56th minute, Mohamed Salah scored the all-important away goal, cementing a dagger in the heart of City’s Champions League dreams. Roberto Firmino put any hope of redemption out of reach in the 77th minute after intercepting Nicolas Otamendi’s poor pass and slotting the ball into Ederson’s goal. The game finished with City suffering yet another home defeat and their European conquest drawing to a close.
Luckily, after the game, Guardiola saw the bright side:
“I must admit, I am slightly relieved,” admitted Guardiola, after the match. “We can finally focus all our attention on winning the Premier League.”
The Catalonian coach explained how his team’s recent string of results has made him increasingly anxious about wrapping up his domestic ambitions. With five points needed to mathematically make it impossible for Mourinho to catch up, and only six games left to play, the feeling of doubt has not only manifested itself with Guardiola but with some of his players as well.
“We are starting to feel the pressure,” explained City’s top scorer, Sergio Aguero. “We can feel United breathing down our neck, so it will be nice to have the rest of the season to focus solely on the league.”
At the end of the day, Manchester’s noisy neighbours have played some outstanding football this season and deservedly sit an impressive 13-points clear of second place. An away win this weekend against London’s top side Tottenham Hotspur, would allow Pep to lift the trophy at home against Swansea the following week. While success seems inevitable, captain Vincent Kompany isn’t taking any chances.
“I had had a chance to chat with Steven Gerrard after the game,” said Kompany. “I was asking him for advice to ensure I don’t let my team down like he did back in 2014.”
Can City do it? Only time will tell.
Please note the above quotes are made up and created for satirical purposes.