Manchester City limped out of the Champions League on Wednesday, so now must put in a performance against Arsenal at The Etihad Stadium on Sunday if they are to qualify for the competition next season
Heartache in the Sun
Wednesday saw Manchester City make history as they appeared in their first Champions League semi-final (second leg), however the game in Madrid was somewhat marred by a lacklustre performance from the blues, as Real Madrid were the victors in the match and City were outplayed. There was only one goal over the two legs, which was a deflected cross from Gareth Bale, which meant that despite City not playing the best they could they still only needed one goal to go through to the final of the competition. Fernandinho in the first half came very close to hitting the post, and Sergio Agüero sprung into life in the second half to shoot from distance and just skim over the top of the crossbar. The midfield pairing of Fernando and Fernandinho that worked well in the first half of the first leg a week before, was joined by Yaya Touré back from injury in a hope to bolster the midfield. But it was Luka Modrić who won the midfield battle, despite Sergio Agüero dropping deep for most of the game to try and help his midfield friends out. It must be said that this game will not make Yaya Touré’s season highlights video.
This summer there will presumably be a bit of a sale on at City, as many of the first team squad will see their careers at the club come to an end, meaning that this game would have been their last chance to make progress and get to the Champions League Final with the Blues. The players may be downhearted about this missed opportunity, but the fans shouldn’t be. The players leaving will be replaced by an injection of a younger crop striving to make even more history in the competition. Reaching the semi-finals was a landmark that will only help the club in the future of this competition, despite how this may not feel like a positive in the direct aftermath of the game.
Big week for the Top Four
Not making it through to the Champions League Final means that there is only one way that City can qualify for the Champions League next season—by finishing in the top four this season. Currently they are sitting happily in fourth place, but a big week in the race for Champions League football is ahead of us! Third place Arsenal travel to Manchester to play fourth place City, and fifth place Manchester United will be facing sixth place West Ham on Tuesday at Upton Park for the stadium’s last Premier League game. All four sides are still within a shot of getting in the top four, and with these being the penultimate fixtures of the season, the advantage will go to whichever sides come out on top in these games.
Captain Vincent Kompany only managed three games this time after coming back from injury, as he trudged off in the first ten minutes of the Champions League semi-final in Madrid, to be replaced by Eliaquim Mangala. He became the first player in Champions League history to be substituted twice within the first ten minutes of a game in the competition, but that isn’t the record he was hoping to break on Wednesday evening. Prior to the first leg in the competition Kompany was expressing how he describes his injuries as “comebacks” due to the astonishing amount of times he has managed to pull up his socks again, put on his boots, and get back in the City team playing top quality football. Kompany will be hoping to do the same again next season and get a good pre-season of fitness behind him, as it’s certain he’s played his last game this season. Whether he goes to the European Championship with Belgium is a different matter. Despite being captain of the national side, now is a time for Kompany to consider his future and try to regain the fitness he once had.
The North London side have seen Spurs leapfrog them this season for the first time in what seems like forever, sparking mass outcries from the fans and protests for Arsène Wenger to leave the club. The Gunners may have consistently finished in the top four since the Tyrannosaurus Rex became extinct, but they haven’t mounted a successful title challenge since Bruce Forsyth turned twelve, three hundred years ago. City will be hoping to take advantage of the Arsenal fans’ protests at The Etihad on Sunday for the 4pm kick off, and leave them behind in fourth place.
Héctor Bellerín was named in the PFA Team of the Year last week, when Riyad Mahrez picked up his gong for player of the season, so he will be a tough nut to crack down the left wing for either Jesús Navas, Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne, or ex-Arsenal man Samir Nasri if he proves fit enough. Not only that though, as the pacey right-back will pour his efforts into a quick counter-attack whenever the moment arises. He is one of the quickest players in the league so Gaël Clichy will have to be eagle-eyed to stop him giving his side the advantage. Arsenal have a wealth in attacking flare that City will have to concentrate on if they are to out-strength the Londoners—but they do have a weakness at the back that could be exploited. City’s seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions was put to an end by Southampton last Sunday, and stretched to another loss at the hands of Real Madrid, so you’d like to think that the players will be up for this game and give the fans something to sing for in the last home fixture of the season.
Arsenal won 2-0 in January last year when they last came to Manchester. City fans will remember this game for a dodgy penalty. Perhaps revenge is in order.
With Pep Guardiola arriving in the coming weeks, this will be Manuel Pellegrini’s penultimate game for Manchester City—and his final game at The Etihad. The Chilean took over the club from Roberto Mancini and has since won two Capital One Cups, the Barclays Premier League, and reached a Champions League semi-final. When you add this to the fact that he boasts the most impressive win percentage for a Manchester City manager, it is obvious that Pellegrini will forever remain in the memories of the City fans. However, the time has come for change, so on Sunday the City faithful will in no doubt be in fine spirit singing the name of their beloved manager who made history with the club!
Although nothing has been confirmed by the club, various sources suggest that there may be a few players leaving the club in the summer that have been at City for some time. Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Touré are two names that are constantly popping up in the press as players who are considering their future with the club. Both are over the age of 30 and past their best years for The Blues, it’s certainly possible that this may also be their last game at The Etihad Stadium as a Manchester City player. Touré has scored countless important goals, including the only goal in the 2011 FA Cup Final when City won their first trophy in 35 years, and Zabaleta has become a City favourite since his transfer to the club in 2008, so both will no doubt get a great reaction from the fans.
Manchester City 1-1 Arsenal
With the title already decided, the top four competition has gripped the nation, so it only makes sense for this game to end inconclusively and leave everyone on the edge of their seats on the final day of the season. Plus, I’ve got Mesut Özil in my fantasy team and I’m still sitting in second place!