MANCHESTER: Little over 60 hours after their extraordinary Champions League drama, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur will face each other again at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, this time in the Premier League.
City’s dream of a quadruple of titles ended with their away-goals loss after Wednesday’s second-leg ended with a 4-3 win, but a 4-4 aggregate score.
The destiny of the Premier League remains in the hands of Pep Guardiola’s side, however, and they know that if they win their remaining five games they will retain their title.
Yet this is now a major test of their character after what was a crushing exit from Europe — with a late goal from Raheem Sterling, which would have sent City through, ruled out for offside following a VAR video review.
“We have to react, close time, same team. But don’t think too much right now, sleep as much as possible and then we will prepare for the game,” said Guardiola.
City have won the League Cup and are in the final of the FA Cup, meaning a treble remains a realistic objective.
“We fought a lot, nine, 10 months for the Premier League. It’s in our hands,” added Guardiola.
“It’s tough, of course, but we have to do it.”
City are two points behind leaders Liverpool, but have a game in hand — although that fixture is against local rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford next Wednesday.
If they can remove the emotion from the Champions League loss, City will draw heart from the fact that they dominated large parts of the game, enjoying 66 percent possession and 20 shots to Spurs’ 11.
While Mauricio Pochettino’s options are limited by injuries, including to attacking fulcrum Harry Kane, Guardiola has plenty of fresh alternatives to call on, including German winger Leroy Sane, who did not feature until the 84th minute on Wednesday.
Third-placed Spurs have plenty to play for as well — the battle for a top-four finish and qualification for the Champions League is tight with Arsenal and Chelsea just a point behind and sixth-placed Manchester United only three points adrift.
Liverpool will expect to pick up three points at 18th-placed Cardiff City on Sunday, although Neil Warnock’s team have been boosted by Tuesday’s win at Brighton, which kept their survival hopes alive.
Brighton, who are now just two points above the Welsh side, although with a game in hand, are at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.
Arsenal will expect three points from a home fixture with Crystal Palace and Chelsea will want the same from their meeting with Burnley on Easter Monday.
United, smarting from their Champions League exit to Barcelona, have a tricky trip to Everton on Sunday.