AFP -The third act of Manchester City and Tottenham’s trilogy has some living up to do after a Champions League classic saw Spurs prevail on away goals to reach the semi-finals.
However, their Premier League meeting on Saturday has huge implications for both City’s bid to win the title and Spurs’ hopes of just qualifying for the Champions League again next season.
Pep Guardiola’s men are five games away from becoming the first side in a decade to retain the Premier League.
However, it is Liverpool who lead by two points as things stand having played a game more than their title rivals.
City were on course for an unprecedented quadruple until falling short in the most dramatic fashion in the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday.
With the sides level at 4-4 on aggregate, Raheem Sterling scored the goal that would have sent City through in stoppage time, only for a VAR review to rule the goal out for offside.
“We have to stand up, we have to react,” said Guardiola.
“We fought a lot in the last nine or 10 months for the Premier League. We are still there, it is in our hands. Of course it is tough, but we have to do it until the end.”
City’s extra resources may have counted for little once more in Europe, but it could prove the difference with such a tight turnaround for both sides.
Guardiola could afford the luxury of leaving Fernandinho, Leroy Sane, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones on the bench in midweek.
By contrast, Tottenham remain without Harry Kane and are now desperately short in midfield after Moussa Sissoko limped off midway through the first-half on Wednesday.
And should they lose a fifth straight away league game, third-placed Spurs could easily find themselves outside the top four come the end of the weekend.
– Cardiff before Barcelona –
Such was the drama at the Etihad that Liverpool’s serene progress to the Champions League semi-finals with a 4-1 win in Porto went largely unnoticed.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have now won eight consecutive games in all competitions and do not look likely to crumble under the pressure of delivering a first top-flight title for 29 years should City slip up.
A Champions League semi-final with Barcelona awaits, but first the Reds travel to Cardiff on Sunday.
Liverpool have on paper a much more comfortable run-in than City. However, Cardiff have plenty to play for themselves having beaten Brighton in midweek to haul themselves back to within two points of safety.
“We play on Sunday against Cardiff — that’s in my mind and will be in my mind 100 per cent when I wake up tomorrow and not how we play against Barcelona,” said Klopp.
“Cardiff is completely back in the race with that result so they will fight for it.”
– Must win for Man Utd –
In comparison to their Premier League rivals, Manchester United limped out of the Champions League with a whimper as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were beaten 3-0 by Barcelona on Tuesday to complete a 4-0 aggregate defeat.
United now face an uphill task just to make the Champions League next season as they trail Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for two remaining places in the top four.
The initial momentum garnered by Solskjaer’s appointment on a caretaker basis that landed the Norwegian the job permanently has gone amidst a run of five defeats in seven games.
That could get even worse if the rot is not stopped at Everton on Sunday as City and Chelsea visit Old Trafford next week.
“It’s a big week and we have to get ready for that week because (they are) three big games,” admitted Solskjaer.
Should Tottenham not shock City once more, Arsenal and Chelsea will be confident of edging ahead of their London rivals.
The Gunners can extend their excellent home record at home to Crystal Palace on Sunday, while Chelsea host Burnley on Monday.
Saturday (1400GMT unless stated)
Manchester City v Tottenham (1130GMT), West Ham v Leicester, Wolves v Brighton, Bournemouth v Fulham, Huddersfield v Watford, Newcastle v Southampton (1630GMT)
Everton v Manchester United (1230GMT), Arsenal v Crystal Palace, Cardiff v Liverpool (both 1500GMT)
Chelsea v Burnley (1900GMT)