As the top four of the Premier League attempt to distance themselves from the rest of the league and, essentially, create a situation where the worst they can hope for is 4th place, Manchester City now face an interesting situation. Because of the tournament obligations, the Citizens now have two games-in-hand and sit in 4th place on 57 points. Considering their fantastic goal differential, two wins will put City back on top of the table, one win and a draw/a win and a loss/two draws will put City back into second place, and any other combination (draw/loss or loss/loss) will see them remain in the fourth spot. With their recent form and the feeling of a winner’s medal still around their neck, City certainly look like they will march on…but will it be that easy?
Their first match back in the EPL will be at Hull City. Hull has been an odd-duck this Premier League season as they have dropped to the lows of a relegation battle team and also performed admirably against some of the biggest clubs in England. They took three points from Liverpool, have smashed Newcastle early in the season, drew with Tottenham, and nearly took three points against Manchester United (until they were bailed out very late on). City will do well to not underestimate the Tigers of Hull and should know that Hull are only a few points away from guaranteed safety. Three points against Manchester City would definitely be seen as the final springboard to remaining in the EPL for another season. With all of that said, however, Man City should march onto the pitch and walk out as easy winners. But there are no guaranteed points…and the Citizens will be fully aware of that…
Their second match back in the EPL will be at home against Fulham. This fixture requires very little discussion as Craven Cottage has seen nothing but disappointment over the last few months. However, like Hull, Fulham would see a victory against City as the best type of medicine for renewed relegation battle strength. If City are unable to lead by more than a goal at the half, this fixture could get hairy.
Now that it truly feels that United are mathematically out of returning to the top four, City should take great pride in increasing the distance between their rivals and Champions League football. Also, with the simple fact that City will be hard pressed to overturn their first leg result against Barcelona when they travel to the Camp Nou, Pellegrini and co. will want to solidify Champions League soccer in the next campaign as quickly as possible. These fixtures also come with the added bonus of still being within striking distance of the title. Consider the celebrations if City won the league as United had to settle for Europa League football…the taunting and bragging would be merciless. For that alone, we at The Center Circle expect City to make short work of any “in-hand” pressure as they put the pressure back on Chelsea.