Resur­gent Man City re­sumes ti­tle quest against in-form Wolves

Iran Daily - - Sports -

Pep Guardi­ola’s re­ju­ve­nated Manch­ester City faces a po­ten­tially tricky chal­lenge at home to Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers to­day as it con­tin­ues its Pre­mier League ti­tle de­fense.

But the early days of 2019 sug­gest the side’s un­char­ac­ter­is­tic De­cem­ber col­lapse is firmly be­hind it, AFP wrote.

The fi­nal month of last year saw City lose suc­ces­sive league games, against rel­a­tively mod­est op­po­si­tion in both Crys­tal Palace and Le­ices­ter City, fol­low­ing an end to its un­beaten do­mes­tic start to the cam­paign ear­lier at the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber.

But a vic­tory over leader Liver­pool to kick off New Year com­pletely re­ju­ve­nated the mood at the Eti­had Sta­dium af­ter City had been de­nied the ser­vices of in­jured play­maker Kevin De Bruyne for most of the first half of the cam­paign.

And two stun­ning cup vic­to­ries in the space of four days – al­beit against lower league clubs Rother­ham and Bur­ton Al­bion – sug­gested the clin­i­cal, cut­ting edge that char­ac­ter­ized City’s play dur­ing last sea­son’s record­break­ing ti­tle-win­ning cam­paign was back.

Cham­pi­onship side Rother­ham was swept aside 7-0 at the Eti­had, with third divi­sion Bur­ton suf­fer­ing an even more painful fate in a lop­sided first leg of League Cup semi­fi­nal, when City scored nine goals with­out re­ply.

That lat­ter vic­tory not only all but as­sured City of a place in the fi­nal against Tot­ten­ham or Chelsea next month but also in­di­cated the de­mand­ing Guardi­ola will not tol­er­ate any letup in his quest to add more sil­ver­ware to the club’s tro­phy cabi­net.

De Bruyne anger

It was a mood re­flected by De Bruyne against Rother­ham when he showed vis­i­ble dis­sat­is­fac­tion at be­ing brought off af­ter an hour, even though City was al­ready lead­ing by five goals.

Some re­ports even sug­gested De Bruyne re­fused to re­turn to the bench to watch the re­main­der of the match, re­main­ing, in­stead, in the City dress­ing room.

“No, I didn’t speak with him,” said City man­ager Guardi­ola curtly, when asked if he had ad­dressed De Bruyne’s re­ac­tion to be­ing re­placed.

But given the Bel­gian has started just one league game so far this cam­paign, he is likely to be chomp­ing at the bit to play from the kick­off against Wolves.

Ser­gio Aguero, too, has re­turned af­ter be­ing ab­sent since the Liver­pool win due to ill­ness and in­spi­ra­tional club cap­tain and de­fender Vin­cent Kom­pany is an­other player win­ning his bat­tle to be fit for to­day’s match.

The gen­eral pic­ture sug­gests that, hav­ing weathered a brief loss of form, City has not only re­turned to its clin­i­cal best but also have a num­ber of key play­ers hit­ting fit­ness at the right time, as Guardi­ola in­sisted his squad can main­tain its chase for hon­ors on four fronts.

Even long-term in­jury vic­tim Ben­jamin Mendy is mak­ing progress and ex­pected to re­turn to the fold shortly.

Mean­while se­cond-placed City will want to close the point gap at the top of the ta­ble cre­ated by Liver­pool’s 1-0 win away to Brighton on Satur­day when it faces Wolves.

How­ever, Nuno Espir­ito Santo’s side held City to a cred­itable 1-1 draw ear­lier in the sea­son at Mo­lineux and drew 1-1 at the Eti­had in last sea­son’s League Cup when it was still a Cham­pi­onship club.

PAUL EL­LIS/AFP

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