#MINDTHEGAP. The feelgood factor has rapidly returned to the City Football Academy, a thumping League Cup Final win and a 6th major domestic trophy in 7 years cancelling out a harrowing FA Cup exit at the Royston Vasey of football only 6 days earlier. The objective now is to secure as quickly as possible the Premier League title and make it 7 out of 7 in order to maximise the squad’s chances of reaching our holy grail, a Champions League final. This could be the month that decides the title. It will not be easy despite the Blues wonderful football under Pep Guardiola. Three traditionally grim away destinations are on the agenda and we have some patchy domestic away form to correct. Beware the sides of March?
Arsenal, Emirates Stadium, Thursday 1st March 19h45 GMT, PL 2017-18 Match Number 44
Arsene Wenger, the beleaguered Director of Fails at the Ashburton Grove Bottling Factory (copyright the esteemed Pedmachine) continues to oversee the moral sapping painfully slow destruction of his own legacy. The Gunners League Cup Final humiliation at the hands of The Blues has served to tee up an intriguing edge to this re-arranged contest at the home of one of the most excruciatingly entitled club supports this correspondent has ever witnessed. The animosity towards Wenger and his erratic effective is getting nastier with every defeat and God knows what awaits them all should they fail to show again in this fixture, if not even before the game kicks off. Arsenal come into this one off the back of 6 defeats in 12 games since the turn of the year. Only 4 of those games have been won and I genuinely feel that on Sunday we saw clear and present signs that the increasingly agitated Wenger has lost the dressing room. What an opportunity for City to land a knockout blow to one of our club’s loudest critics this game represents. I am especially keen to see how City perform now the albatross of winning a first title with Pep has been kicked into orbit. We have to expect Arsenal to up their performance but above all else I expect a feisty contest. When up against it in the modern era, Arsenal’s discipline goes backed by a tidal wave of foaming and moaning in the tribunes. If they lose their collective focus and City maintain theirs, there will only be one winner in the first of two massive business end fixtures.
Arsenal 0 City 2
Chelsea, Etihad Stadium, Sunday 4th March 16h00 GMT, PL 2017-18 Match Number 45
City’s second opportunity to floor a managerial colossus comes in the visit of hat-stand technical area jester Antonio Conté. The Chelsea squad is laden with riches but their XI take the field in Manchester on a similarly wayward run to that of Arsenal, only 4 wins from 14 games incorporating 4 defeats. 3 of those defeats have been shipped in Chelsea’s last 4 Premier League fixtures. In all honesty, City could not ask for a better time to welcome the hopelessly deposed champions. Nail both Arsenal and Chelsea to the floor and we will have one hand firmly on the trophy. I expect City to fully exorcise the demons of last season’s chaotic defeat and for Conté’s agent to open formal discussions for the Italian manager’s job which should suit all parties.
City 3 Chelsea 0
FC Basel, Etihad Stadium, Wednesday 7th March 19h45 GMT, Champions League R16 2nd Leg 2017-18 Match Number 46
Four goals to the good following that scintillating performance in Switzerland last month, City welcome what had been a previously imperious pre-winter break Basel for what should be a trouble-free night. As is so often the case in the season of two halves countries, sides pushing for titles in their first phase of action go off the boil once hostilities resume in February. Basel have lost 3 of their 4 fixtures on their return, all 3 at home including that City tuning and only have a 0-2 win at relegation haunted Thun in the bank. They face a wobbling FC Zurich before flying to Ringway. El Boss, if everything goes to plan this month is very likely to rest a few main men for this fixture and if the Brighton match is rearranged in our favour, we could be looking at a battery recharging opportunity for the City squad. The Blues to prevail comfortably.
City 3 Basel 0
Stoke City, Bet365 Stadium, Monday 12th March 20h00 GMT, PL 2017-18 Match Number 47
A March dodgy double header begins with a potential banana skin carrying added bite. Stoke’s lowly position in the league should fool no-one. City fans know all too well what an uncompromising place to go the Brittania can be in spite of a couple of great results there in recent season. Paul Lambert has immediately instilled defensive discipline since he arrived in the Potteries and his men have begun to grind out positive results. Jack Butland in form can also be a formidable obstacle. Lambert’s squad carries a few assassins too so City will be looking to board the coach home with everyone intact. A professional deployment of game management is what we are looking for à la WimbleCardiff in January.
Stoke 0 City 2
Everton, Goodison Park, Saturday 31st March 17h30 BST, PL 2017-18 Match Number 48
It’s cup final day again! Well, you can bet your life it is for Everton and their supporters every time that City arrive on Merseyside. Sam Allardyce has done what he does best in hauling Everton 7 points clear of a congested relegation battle at the time of going to press and then instructed his agent to bag him a new contract. However, after an initial spurt you don’t know which Everton you are going to face and the results trajectory has been generally downwards in 2018 leaving the natives Arsenal-ish restless. I think this one will be tight but City will prevail ahead of two humdingers versus the Stretfords and Spurs.
Everton 1 City 2
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