Huddersfield Town are the visitors to the Etihad for City’s penultimate home game of the 2017/18 season.
With the title in the bag and the trophy presentation taking place after the game on Sunday, it would be easy to think that the players might feel like kicking back and resting on their laurels. But as the last two matches have shown, Pep has instilled a hunger and desire into his players to make sure that there is zero complacency in their approach to these final few games.
Apart from his desire not to be accused of ‘disrespecting the competition and the opposition’ he has been sending them out to get the job done in style, challenging them to deliver an outcome which cannot be denigrated or dismissed lightly. I feel that he wants the records for the highest title winning points tally and the highest number of goals quite badly, almost as if it is an opportunity to throw them back at all the doubters and nay-sayers whose guarded or outright negativity since he arrived at the club have coloured their opinions and their copy.
Huddersfield are the latest relegation-threatened side City will face in their series of games after securing the title. I am sure that it is a matter of honour and importance to Guardiola that he is seen to not let his player’s standards slip or allow his approach to games be criticised through the selection of ‘weakened’ team selections which might be felt unfair to those sides faced earlier in the campaign.
After a bright start to their first Premier League campaign David Wagner brings his side to the Etihad in 16th place on 35 points and not out of the woods yet. Last weekend’s results especially Southampton’s victory over Bournemouth means that the Terriers remain sat firmly on the relegation trap door. Their situation is identical to that faced by City’s last opponent’s West Ham but without the advantage of playing at home – stick or twist? I do not think that Wagner will set up to defend for their lives but the question may be whether he will have the conviction of putting City under the sort of pressure we faced in the cup matches against Wolves, Wigan or Bristol City. This could almost be seen as a cup match for Huddersfield with the prize being three points rather than progression to the next round but it remains a difficult call and not one that I envy him.
Huddersfield’s form in recent weeks has seen them inch closer to the drop zone with only a single victory in March and April – P7 W1 D2 L4. The reverse fixture saw City go behind on the stroke of half-time when Otamendi couldn’t prevent a rebound going into his own net.
Parity was restored soon after halftime though with an Aguero penalty and the game was won in the 84th minute by another of Raheem Sterling’s ‘late show’ goals. After the lad’s man of the match performance last weekend he is showing just what can happen when you trust your own ability, your coach puts his faith in you and you listen to what he says. After being vilified during England’s woeful Euro 2016 experience he took heed of the call Pep Guardiola made to him before arriving to take up his coaching duties at City and the club and player are now reaping the rewards.
Sterling is the perfect example of just how much influence Guardiola has had in improving players already at the club and his improvement is simply one of many examples that can be used when faced with the “bought the title” arguments which will doubtless emerge from the limited neanderthals whose distress at what they see before then only ever emerges as “it’s only because City spent LOADS”. Unlike the Stretfords then eh? How many points is the gap now?
Well done young man & well done Pep Guardiola.
City hero Sergio Aguero is, of course, unavailable as he recovers from knee surgery (although he will be present at the game). John Stones remains sidelined with his groin/abductor problem. Kyle Walker is a doubt with a groin strain and Vincent Kompany may also be a doubt being rather vaguely listed as having an “illness”.
Huddersfield will be without Kachunga, Hefele and Danny Williams. Thomas Ince may face a late fitness test after a hamstring strain.
Possible City XI & subs
Danilo, Otamendi, Laporte, Delph
De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva D
Sterling, G Jesus, Sané
Bravo, Kompany, Mendy, Toure, Silva B, Gundogan, Foden
Referee: Mike Dean
Assistants: Simon Bennett, Simon Long
Fourth official: Paul Tierney
The season is not done. There is work to be completed, points to be gained, goal tallies to be increased. Victory on Sunday would deliver the highest ever points total for a title win and two more goals scored would overtake the current record in that department.
I am very much hoping that City can finish the season with a goal difference that is larger than the total number of goals scored by the second placed team. The indications are good – City’s GD going into this match stands at +76 so we have a +9 head start already (as of 4th May).
Let’s increase that on Sunday just to keep rubbing salt in the wound……
Mind the Gap.
Come on City!!!