If there’s a song lyric I’d like to attach to Liverpool’s season that would be it. This weekend, is the make or break round of fixtures and has a big say in which end of the A580 the Premiership title ends at on May 10th. If Liverpool avoid defeat, it’s as good as theirs, but a 15 game winning run is a huge ask.
I’m not going to wave the white flag just yet; fight to the end and all that. But the facts are, if we’d picked up more points against Liverpool and Chelsea, we could be home and dry by now. Usually there are good and bad patches in the season. If City had a disaster period this year, it’s fair to say it came early, and on the road. Dropped points at Cardiff, Villa and Stoke saw us fall off the pace and Liverpool have demonstrated how key it is to get your nose in front.
Since, I don’t think we’ve ever hit top gear. Perhaps in the run up to Christmas as we dismantled poor Tottenham and Norwich sides, but the 6 goals we put past a leggy Arsenal, who’d endured an exhausting trip to Napoli, masked over the three soft ones we conceded.
Liverpool were worth a point at the Etihad as well. Just imagine how good they’d be if Luis Suarez scored against big sides too!
Then there’s the injuries; lengthy layoffs for Matija Nastasic, Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Samir Nasri, to a certain extent Stevan Jovetic. But these are part of the game, surely.
One of the aforementioned seems set to miss the weekend’s trip to Palace, though Yaya Toure remains a doubt, he could feature. This was always the big one for me (Liverpool aside). Tony Pulis knows the best way to bank good faith is take as many points as he can from the big sides. If results are ever thin on the ground, the fans know that Pulis can contain big sides and the odd point here and there could be the difference between survival and relegation.
That said, Palace have embarked on a five game winning run, including dampening Chelsea’s chances of retaining the title.
The job he’s done since succeeding Ian Holloway is remarkable, and it’s fair to say he’s not compromised the style of his predecessor too much either. To boot, he absolutely hates City and Wembley back in 1999 I’m sure will feature in his approach to the game.
Playing ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Chelsea would’ve been ideal, but turning negatives to positives; if Liverpool beat Chelsea the result of our trip south of the river becomes virtually academic. If they lose, we know exactly what we must do.
I’m less concerned with visiting Goodison than I have been in a good few years. Gareth Barry, alongside James McCarthy, really has them ticking over now. But he’ll be ineligible when we meet on bank holiday weekend for the tea time kick off. Everton play a more expansive game these days, and if Sergio Aguero has reached something like his peak, I’m sure we can get at them.
Football managers often say we must concentrate on ourselves, unfortunately it’s not as straight forward as that for City and we’re relying on Jose and co to repeat what they did to us, to Liverpool. Stop them scoring. Liverpool have come up short with the goals just three times this year; against Arsenal, Southampton and also Manchester United in the League Cup.
That said we’d been scoring goals freely when we met Chelsea in February, and it was an Ivanovic riffle that separated the sides in the end.
It is the mini league of elite clubs that can determine a season, and big mistakes at Stamford Bridge and Anfield involving Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany have meant City came away with nothing on both counts. A point from each of those would see us just one behind Liverpool, still with a game in hand.
With the season entering its eleventh hour now, Jose Mourhino, who has a history with Liverpool won’t want to see the Merseyside club triumph. Liverpool are free flowing in their passages of play and shape, but Chelsea are one of the few sides that would be able to combat that. It’s a question of whether they will go with experience in Frank Lampard and perhaps David Luiz, or the Nemanja Matic to combat Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva. Petr Cech is out for the season along with John Terry. With Lampard suspended for the return visit of Atletico next week he’ll feature.
Sunday is make or break for City’s title push, and if Chelsea can prevent Liverpool from scoring, as they did Atletico midweek, City can take maximum points in London, then we’ll will have a chance of being top of the pile on the only day it matters, May 11th.