With Arsenal and Liverpool running them close for two of the four remaining places in the Top 4, Manchester City can not afford a slip-up at West Brom on Tuesday.
With the fate of relegation and the Premier League title confirmed, the top four is all that’s left to play for. And Sunday’s loss to Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane effectively ruled out Manchester United’s passage into the elite competition via the league route.
That leaves Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City to grab the remaining two places as we approach the business end of the campaign. While the Reds have only one game pending against Middlesborough at Anfield next week, Arsene Wenger’s Gunners and Pep Guardiola’s Citizens have two games in hand.
While victory in their remaining two games will assure Manchester City of a guaranteed passage into the group stage of the Champions League, it may not yet be enough for Arsenal who’ll need either or both of the other two sides to falter in order to secure a miraculous passage into the continental spectacle for a 21st consecutive year.
West Brom made Chelsea sweat it out before eking out the victory that won the Premier League title for them and the result should ring warning bells for Guardiola’s men who welcome the Baggies to the Etihad on Tuesday.
Tony Pulis’ men suffered a 4-0 thrashing when City visited the Hawthornes in November and with nothing to lose this time around, West Brom could be expected to give it their all in the hope of wrecking City’s Champions League dreams. So Guardiola better watch out.
Team News and Tactics
The Sky Blues have leaked goals throughout the campaign, and Guardiola’s lack of action in the transfer market to buy a world-class centre-back has hurt the team.
John Stones could make a return for City after recovering from a muscle problem and is set for a first appearance since 8th April. Fabian Delph though is set to miss out City’s final two games of the season due to a leg injury.
The focal point of City’s team news will however be the tussle between Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus for a place in the starting XI. Aguero has lacked the ridiculous conversion rates that Jesus has produced in just six starts for City and that is a factor that may compel Guardiola to drop the Argentine super-star for a second game in a row.
Goals may be difficult to come by against Tony Pulis’ side and City will need a player of Gabriel Jesus’ confidence and finishing ability at the moment to deliver the goods for the Citizens.
With City announcing the imminent departure of Zabaleta at the end of the season, Guardiola may be poised to offer the Argentine a suitable farewell appearance at the Etihad.
Probable Starting XI (4-1-4-1): Caballero; Zabaleta, Kompany, Stone, Clichy; Fernandinho; Sterling, De Bruyne, Silva, Sane; Jesus.
West Bromwich Albion
West Brom are likely to be without influential defender Gareth McAuley, who was substituted with a thigh injury during Friday’s defeat by Chelsea. Hal Robson-Kanu may again only be fit enough for a place on the bench after a recent hamstring injury. Matt Phillips remains sidelined by a similar problem.
The Baggies have not only avoided the relegation fight this year, but they have genuine aspirations for European football next term.
There is a huge gap in points between seventh and eighth in the Premier League, but West Brom remain the best performing side below the elite clubs.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Foster; Dawson, Olsson, Evans, Nyom; Brunt, Fletcher, Livermore; Chadli, Rondon, McClean
- Manchester City have won the last 10 Premier League meetings.
- In fact, City have won 13 of their last 14 league games against the Baggies, with the only exception being a 0-0 draw at The Hawthorns in 2011. The aggregate score across those games is 45-8 in City’s favour.
- West Brom’s last league victory against City was by 2-1 at home in December 2008, when Luke Moore and Roman Bednar were on target.
- City have lost just one of their last 15 league games, winning eight and drawing six.
- Pep Guardiola’s side have only lost one top-flight game at home this season, but they have drawn seven of their 18 matches.
Player to watch
Does he ever have a bad game? The industrious midfielder has always been in the scheme of things in Manchester City’s endeavours going forward in attack and in their run up to secure Champions League football, he has unquestionably been Pep’s biggest asset.
Hence, West Brom should look to keep the Spanish midfielder quite else if he’s afforded space and time, it could prove to be a tough evening for the Baggies.
Manchester City 2 – 0 West Bromwich Albion
In all honesty, City have got bags of quality in their line-up and have creativity flowing all through their midfield and attack and should see West Brom off with considerable ease. With a place in the Top 4 at stake, there won’t be room for complacency as Pep will command the ruthlessness that marked their 5-0 demolition of Crystal Palace last week.