So, it comes down to this. After the most frenetic season in recent memory, Liverpool must win at home to Wolves in the hope that City – that’s City who’ve won 13 on the bounce – drop points to a Brighton side with a shoddy home record. Surely that can’t happen? Well, if the last week of football is anything to go by, nothing should come as a surprise anymore.
It’s been a roller-coaster season for football fans from the North-West. Everton didn’t meet the height restrictions to go on the ride, United’s ride broke down halfway through leaving all on board in a perennial state of limbo, leaving only City and Liverpool sticking it out until the bittersweet end. Each fraught ascent to the top met with the resulting plummet back down to Earth, each twist and turn more frenzied than the last – it’s been a heart stopper – a roller coaster so exquisitely manufactured that both carts are expected to arrive to the finish line at practically the same time, although recent analysis on an almost nanoscopic level has predicted that the blue cart will get there ever so slightly quicker than the red; 0.11cm quicker.
That John Stones clearance is the moment I look at anyway, but this season has been a conglomeration of different moments that’ve favoured the blue side and the red. That Riyad Mahrez miss, Sturridge’s screamer, Speroni, Lloris and Pickford’s match-fixing masterclasses, and then last week, Vincent Kompany’s decennial attempt at the Puskas award actually finding the upper 90; it’s been ridiculous, and quite frankly bad for my health. But it’s all led to us having the extra point on Liverpool, a position we should be eternally grateful to be in after the St James’ Park antics that all but buried our title hopes back in January. Now all we can hope for is that Pep Guardiola and his players make sure the league table culminates in the same manner in which it stands today.
The game plan for Jurgen Klopp’s men will be as usual; homogenize the Anfield crowd, his individual talents and a tiny bit of s**thousery to conjure up the perfect recipe to beat the team in front of him, as he always does. In a way, the pressure is off Liverpool, all they can do is win and hope. If they don’t win, well, City probably will win anyway so it doesn’t matter – this probably means they will win comfortably.
That puts the pressure, the focus, the eyes of the country on us. Our actions on Sunday will determine the fate of the Premier League trophy. Luckily for us, lots of our players, and Pep Guardiola himself, have been through pressure cooker situations like these and triumphed. I imagine Guardiola will try and make it as ‘business as usual’ as possible going into this game. The players will be well aware of the importance of the occasion after Pep’s inevitable battle cry in the Amex away room, but ultimately it’s of paramount importance that they treat this game the same as every other one they’ve encountered.
Patience will be a virtue again most likely. The last three games have been painstakingly agitating for fans in the first forty-five minutes, wondering where a goal will come from against these stern back-fives defiantly trying to scrape a 0-0. We’ve just got to remember that we’re blessed to have a selection of players who can unlock a game on their own; Bernardo Silva against United, Sergio Aguero against Burnley and… Vincent Kompany against Leicester.
This isn’t the only comforting factor going into tomorrow’s all-important game. Yesterday in his press conference, Guardiola stated that Kevin De Bruyne has trained over the last two days and could feature against Brighton. Just the mention of his name alone calms my nerves considerably. He’s the one player we’ve got who never fails to take a game by the scruff of the neck when called upon. So, in other words Pep, please, I don’t care if he’s unable to walk at full time, just get him on the pitch.
The only notable absentees are Fernandinho, who has been more than adequately replaced by Ilkay Gundogan in recent weeks, and Benjamin Mendy, who’s favourite place to cure a hangover seems to be the hospital bed. Claudio Bravo is out as well, he’s that small goalkeeper who used to play for us ages ago.
So how will Brighton set up against us? Their last three home games have been a 1-1 draw with Newcastle, a 2-0 defeat to Cardiff and a 5-0 drumming by none other than Bournemouth – you’d like to think they’ll roll over for us, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, that’s almost definitely not going to be the case as we are Manchester City, therefore we require the exertion of energy to prevent being beat by double figures. I’m expecting a classic five at the back with 38-year-old Bruno putting in the shift of his life in his last game for the Seagulls. Alas, they’ll be tough to break down in what I’m imagining will be a low-scoring, cagey affair, although on the flip side this will consequently make them less potent going forward, especially with omissions of Izquierdo and Propper from the side through injury.
That leaves me with only one thing to say; Chris Hughton, you’re one of the nicest blokes in football, a real good guy. If I had to pick a Premier League manager to be my Dad it’d probably be you. Don’t ruin that by being stubborn and actually making your players try for the ‘narrative’, and because you ‘have to respect the importance of the game’. The important thing is that Liverpool don’t win the league, football won’t be able to continue if that’s the case. So just go easy on us, because we’ve got a big game in the FA Cup final next week that we need the players fresh for… I know we stopped you from getting there in the semi’s but revenge is an ugly trait Chris… please don’t.
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