Manchester United’s English defender Chris Smalling (L) celebrates scoring their third goal with Manchester United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba (R) during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on April 7, 2018.
Ben STANSALL / AFP
Manchester City could be confirmed as Premier League champions without playing on Sunday, but only if rivals Manchester United suffer a shock defeat at home to bottom club West Bromwich Albion.
Pep Guardiola’s side are once again on the brink of securing the title after an impressive performance in beating Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 at Wembley on Saturday.
Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling scored for City either side of an Ilkay Gundogan penalty as they bounced back in style from the disappointment of their Champions League quarter-final exit at the hands of Liverpool in midweek.
It had been a traumatic week for City, who threw away a two-goal interval lead to lose 3-2 at home to United in the derby last weekend, missing the chance to become champions in front of their own fans at the Etihad Stadium.
However, City are now 16 points clear of second-placed United, meaning a defeat for Jose Mourinho’s men at Old Trafford against a West Brom side on the brink of relegation kick-off is at 1500 GMT would wrap up a third title in seven seasons.
A draw in that game would effectively confirm City as champions as well it would leave United 15 points behind with five games remaining, while Guardiola’s side also boast a far superior goal difference.
Guardiola has won titles with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, while also conquering the Champions League during his Camp Nou reign.
But the Spaniard believes leading City to the title would rank among his finest moments.
“It’s more difficult (to win in England). Physicality, weather conditions, the amount of games. The Premier League is so, so tough,” Guardiola said.
“It’s one of the best by far. Winning titles in every league is important, with Barcelona was special.
“But the Premier League is one of the nicest and most important.”
A United victory on Sunday afternoon would keep City’s champagne on ice for a few more days at least.
But a United defeat against Bournemouth in midweek or a City win over Swansea City next Sunday would wrap up the silverware.
In any case, Guardiola clearly believes his side will need to wait a few days before sealing the deal — he has said he will be playing golf with his son on Sunday afternoon rather than watching United’s game.
“I think United will win. We depend on us,” he told the BBC. “The important thing is to have the chance to win at home. I am delighted to have the chance to win in front of our people.”
An impressive performance on Saturday saw City condemn Spurs to a first Premier League loss since the teams last met, at the Etihad back in December.
The nature of their performance allowed Guardiola to hit back at those who had criticised him after the recent blip of three consecutive defeats. “People said it was a big failure last week. They don’t understand anything,” he said.
“The Champions League is seven knockout games. The league is nine months. It’s much more important what these players have done.”The players have my total respect. It’s incredible. They have been unbelievable.”