Resur­gent Man City re­sume ti­tle quest

Daily Dispatch - - Sport -

Pep Guardi­ola’s re­ju­ve­nated Manch­ester City face a po­ten­tially tricky chal­lenge at home to Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers on Mon­day as they con­tinue their Premier League ti­tle de­fence.

But the early days of 2019 sug­gest their un­char­ac­ter­is­tic De­cem­ber col­lapse is firmly be­hind them.

The fi­nal month of 2018 saw City lose suc­ces­sive league games, against rel­a­tively mod­est op­po­si­tion in both Crys­tal Palace and Le­ices­ter City, fol­low­ing an end to their un­beaten do­mes­tic start to the cam­paign at the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber.

But a vic­tory over lead­ers 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 char­ac­terised City’s play dur­ing last sea­son’s record-break­ing ti­tle-win­ning cam­paign was back.

Cham­pi­onship side Rotherham were swept aside 7-0 at the Eti­had, with third divi­sion Bur­ton suf­fer­ing a 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 in Fe­bru­ary but in­di­cated Guardi­ola will not tol­er­ate any let-up in his quest to add more sil­ver­ware to the club’s tro­phy cab­i­net.

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 were lead­ing by five goals.

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

“No, I didn’t speak with him,” City man­ager Guardi­ola said, 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 chomp at the bit to play from the kick-off against Wolves.

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

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

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