Man City will become the first team in a decade to successfully defend the Premier League title if they win their next two games. Pep Guardiola’s men returned to the top of the table by battling to a 1-0 victory over a stubborn Burnley side on Sunday. They are one point clear of Liverpool with two games remaining, and they simply have to hold their nerve against Leicester and Brighton. They are in magnificent form right now and they have the firepower to gun down those two opponents and lift the trophy once more.
The last team to win the Premier League title twice in a row was the fabled Man Utd side led by Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. Since then every defending champion has faltered, and for large spells of the season, Liverpool looked like they might inflict a similar fate upon Man City. But Guardiola’s men have been impeccable of late, rattling off a run of 12 straight league victories at a crucial time of year. That is a testament to their mental strength, desire, and ambition, while their technical ability has never been in doubt.
They may have crashed out of the Champions League in devastating circumstances, but in the domestic competition, they have been superb. The Carabao Cup is already in the bag, and a look at odds offered by top-rated bookies like BetOnline shows that they are odds-on favourites to win the Premier League and the FA Cup too. If they beat Leicester and Brighton and then vanquish Watford in the cup final they will become the first team to ever win the domestic treble. That would still represent a fine season.
It is baffling to think that this phenomenal team has fallen at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League for the last two years running, both times at the hands of a Premier League rival. Liverpool beat them home and away with a swashbuckling performance last season, and they lost on away goals against a Tottenham side bereft of Harry Kane this time around. Defensive lapses cost them dearly against Spurs, but it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise in terms of their domestic aspirations.
Guardiola has consistently said the main aim this season was to win the Premier League title again. Liverpool has put up an extremely spirited challenge after fixing all weaknesses in their squad during an eye-catching summer transfer period. They replaced Loris Karius with Alisson between the sticks and bolstered the midfield with Naby Keita and Fabinho, and they have been utterly sensational all season long. They have only lost once, and that was a nail-biting defeat against Man City, in which goal line heroics from John Stones just about prevented Liverpool from snatching a point.
If Liverpool are to fail in their pursuit of a first ever Premier League title victory, they can hold their heads high, for they have been marvellous throughout the campaign. Virgil Van Dijk has already walked off with the PFA Player of the Year award and Mohamed Salah is once again leading the race for the Golden Boot. But there is such a collective brilliance about this Man City team that it was always going to be difficult to stop them prevailing.
Guardiola can turn to Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan to find the breakthrough against Leicester and Brighton. That is an outrageous collection of creative and attacking talent, and they have all bought into Guardiola’s philosophy. The result is exhilarating. It may not have been enough to conquer Europe, but it looks as though Man City will rule the roost in England once more.