Why the Champions League should now be City’s priority

This time last week, it felt like City putting all their eggs in a Champions League-shaped basket could be extremely perilous to their chances of qualifying for next season’s competition.

But a fair bit has changed since then. The 4-0 win over Stoke City coupled with Arsenal’s draw at Sunderland last weekend means the Blues’ chances of finishing in the Premier League’s top four now look a hell of a lot healthier.

Seven points from City’s final three league fixtures of the season will guarantee a third placed finish, but provided they win their last two games (one of which is against Arsenal) they can probably afford to lose at Southampton this weekend and still finish third on goal difference.

League Table

It’s for this reason that Manuel Pellegrini should approach the visit to St. Mary’s with one eye firmly fixed on Wednesday night’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid.

Last Tuesday’s goalless draw at the Etihad Stadium leaves that tie delicately poised. A 0-0 might not have been the best result in the world, but Madrid’s failure to take an away goal into the second leg gives City a slight advantage. All they need to do is dig in and get a score draw at the Bernabéu and they’ll be through to the final, but doing so will require a monumental effort and they can ill afford any distractions between now and then.

Zidane Pellegrini

City supposedly tried and failed to get Sunday’s game on the south coast moved forward to Saturday in order to give them an extra day to recover and prepare for Madrid, but Pellegrini can afford to give his first choice XI the entire weekend off if he wants to.

None of the back four who defended so well against Gareth Bale and co last week should play against Southampton. Vincent Kompany, in particular, needs to be wrapped in cotton wool and this should be a job for Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov, Eliaquim Mangala and Martín Demichelis.

Joe Hart doesn’t pick up too many injuries but is it worth risking him in this game when the alternative is Willy Caballero versus Real Madrid?


The midfield will be a little trickier. Neither Yaya Touré nor David Silva will be fit enough to play against Southampton but Fabian Delph and Samir Nasri can both come in in their stead. Raheem Sterling hasn’t started for a while and this game would be a good opportunity for him to do so. Fernando and Fernandinho will surely both start at the Bernabéu but the services of one or both of them will probably be required at St. Mary’s.

Sergio Agüero cut a frustrated, isolated figure up front during much of Tuesday night’s game but City will need to score at the Bernabéu and it will absolutely imperative that Kun is at the top of his game that night. Kelechi Iheanacho should be given another opportunity to improve his already excellent Premier League goals-to-games ratio on Sunday and could possibly be partnered by Wilfried Bony. Agüero should be kicking his heels on the bench, at most.


Southampton are a good team, particularly at home, and fielding a weakened team against them could well result in defeat. A City win would, of course, be ideal and a draw wouldn’t be bad either, but a defeat wouldn’t be a catastrophe and City shouldn’t risk harming their chances of reaching the Champions League final by over-exerting themselves in what is a comparatively meaningless game.

Manchester United are probably the biggest threat to City’s chances of finishing in the top four now, but if Leicester beat them to win the league and City lose at Southampton this weekend, United will remain five points behind City and, you’d imagine, their chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League will be pretty much done and dusted.

However this weekend pans out, City should, for the time being at least, put all their eggs in that Champions League-shaped basket. Wednesday night’s game will be City’s biggest for decades, we can worry about the Premier League when it’s over and done with.

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Written by Dan Burke

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9 comments on “Why the Champions League should now be City’s priority
  1. Completely agree Dan! Squeaky bum time for us City fans… I’m sure Pelli will utilise the whole squad to our best advantage,it’s the reason he’s a top manager.Putting players on until half time is a good plan and has worked in the past,whatever happens it’s an exciting for us! Eeeeek!
    Why do people bother commenting if all they do is be insulting, you can put your view across without nastiness! I’ve never seen you do a bad review yet!

  2. You’re having a bloody laugh, securing Champions League football for next season is the priority, not qualifying would mean we take a big hit in winnings, our stock would stall and we would have to wait an entire season to put it right.The Premier League is and always will be, should be our priority, this blog gets more deluded and insane every month that goes by. Where are you? Bet you’re not in the UK right?

      • I’m not sure what relevance it has, but since you asked, I was born and still live in Manchester.

        City can still finish third or fourth if they lose on Sunday so, in my opinion, giving some, if not all, of our key players a rest ahead of Wednesday night’s massive game seems like a sensible idea.

        We could play a full strength team at Southampton, lose, and end up with Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero injured. How would you feel then?

        A draw will do us absolutely fine on Sunday and City’s second string are more than capable of getting that result. Some people seem to have thrown the towel in already when it comes to the Real Madrid game. Call me deluded if you want, but I’m not one of them.

        Thanks for reading.

      • Glad to see Nigel farage taking time out from his busy brexit campaign to comment on here !! “England for the English ” eh nige ? Do you recall when City signed Carlos Tevez , Yaya Toure and David Silva….city were not in the champions league then , yet City were still capable of signing top quality players who had a huge bearing on the clubs recent success. Top players will sign because of guardiola if City are in the champions league or not .

  3. I think that your points are very valid Dan – the only bit that makes me shudder is Bony – but he might just do it with Kelechie alongside him. Will be a very interesting game and the fans have this real hope for Wednesday so lets go with the positivity and hope for good results in both up and coming games.

  4. ‘A comparatively meaningless game’ is a bit of an overstatement. Losing could be costly, as Man Unt will probably beat Leicester 1-0 and City will probably lose to Arsenal 1-0 and to Real Madrid 2-1. That could mean no Champion’s League football next year for City. A better planwould be to get the Southampton game wrapped up by half time and take players off early.

  5. I think given the mood around the emirates tomorrow, with mass protests against Wenger and the Arsenal board planned – it is by no means a nailed on home win v Norwich , especially as defeat for the canaries will almost certainly mean relegation. A point for City on Sunday will be an extremely good return.

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