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Dublin: 14 °C Wednesday 27 May, 2020

Does City's Champions League exit hand them a further Premier League advantage?

Pep Guardiola’s cloud may carry with it a silver lining.

Pep Guardiola reacts to Wednesday's video nasty.
Pep Guardiola reacts to Wednesday's video nasty.
Image: Martin Rickett

A PECULIAR STRAIN of pessimism gnawed away at some Liverpool fans on Wednesday night, despite their side’s swanning into the semi-finals of the Champions League. 

Was the mind-warping drama in Manchester actually…bad news for them?

Sure, it took City out of the way as potential final opponents, and once again City’s defence was exposed as decidedly rickety…but does that mean they have gained another edge in the Premier League title race? 

Well, we say race.

It may be that for City: for Liverpool hope these next four weeks are the last few staggered steps to the oasis after 29 years of wandering lost and alone in the desert; parched and forced to ask for directions from men as medicore as Razor Ruddock, Andriy Voronin, Loris Karius, and Roy Hodgson.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Liverpool v Hull City - Anfield Source: EMPICS Sport

So do City now have a further advantage? 

To start off with an obvious point: City now have fewer games to fret about.

Their sole focus will now be on retaining the league, while Liverpool will have to offer fatigue, injury and potentially damaging dismay as collateral against European glory.

But how affected will City be by the sight of their quadruple dream going up in flames? And considering that only VAR saw the smoke, will the extreme and unfamiliar emotional turmoil serve to exacerbate it all?

While Pep Guardiola put an admirably brave face on the disappointment after the game, City were evidently bereft: Ilkay Gundogan slumped to the pitch in tears.

Pep has been adamant that the quadruple was a nigh-impossible task, but it is inconceivable that the heightened media talk around it did not squirm through the gates of the City training ground, so how will they respond? 

We saw last season how City failed to deal with the emotion of a unique opportunity, as they somehow blew a 2-0 lead to lose against Manchester United on the day they could have sealed the title against their rivals. They were addled by it all; Fabian Delph memorably lamenting the “basics of football” in the dressing room afterward. 

That defeat came in between the Champions League defeats to Liverpool. 

That Saturday’s opponents are Spurs, however, may be a benefit.

For one there is the chance to exorcise Wednesday’s demons in time for the rest of the run-in, and Tottenham have been blitzed by injury. After Wednesday, you can add Moussa Sissoko to Harrys Kane and Winks, Serge Aurier, Eric Dier and Eric Lamela on the list of likely absentees. 

There is a strand of thought which posits that City’s infrequent but significant defensive meltdowns under Guardiola – against Liverpool and United last year, and Spurs on Wednesday – come as a result of their sailing serenely through games up to the point of pressure in big games, which then comes as an enormous jolt which takes them too much time to adjust to. 

Given their upcoming fixtures – Spurs on Saturday, Old Trafford on Wednesday and Burnley away the following Sunday – they will be tested on that front once again.

Given how the collapse against United followed the non-performance at Anfield a year ago, will City be affected by the thought it might happen all over again? 

Certain things more tangible should help them. Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Fernandinho are fit again, while Kevin De Bruyne has found last season’s form at an opportune time.

cuneyt-cakir_1gnt1doirycla16yg82yb6z2cl Referee Cuneyt Cakir ruled out a late winner for Manchester CXity against Tottenham

Plus these games they face do not look quite as tricky as they did a couple of weeks ago. 

Spurs will be emotionally, if not physically, exhausted for Saturday’s lunch-time kick off, while United are stuck in a rut having regressed to the mean at an alarming rate. Burnley, meanwhile, is an away trip made slightly less horrible given they look pretty safe from relegation at this stage. 

Liverpool need City to drop points somewhere, and this seemed the most likely week for that to happen. 

Most signs point to Wednesday’s exit giving City a further edge, but that game was proof that football has little regard for cold and clinical sense. 

City have been confronted with wretched luck and their few, significant, frailties. How they deal with it adds yet another layer of intrigue to this remarkable season run-in. 

Premier League fixtures  (kick off 3pm unless stated)


Manchester City v Tottenham (12.30pm) 

Huddersfield v Watford 

West Ham v Leicester 

Bournemouth v Fulham 

Wolves v Brighton 

Newcastle v Southampton (5.30pm) 


Everton v Manchester United (1.30pm) 

Cardiff v Liverpool (4pm) 

Arsenal v Crystal Palace (4pm) 


Chelsea v Burnley (8pm) 


Watford v Southampton (7.45pm) 

Tottenham v Brighton (7.45pm) 


Wolves v Arsenal (7.45pm) 

Manchester United v Manchester City (8pm) 

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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