Manchester City-Southampton Preview
Before Manchester City can think about their second-leg Champions League semifinal match against Real Madrid next week, they must find enough focus to continue their undefeated stretch in the Premier League.
City look to run that streak to six games Sunday when they try to do the double over host Southampton for a second straight season.
Manuel Pellegrini's group might have felt they missed an opportunity to gain an edge over a Ronaldo-less Madrid side in their scoreless draw at the Etihad on Tuesday. The teams meet again Wednesday at the Bernabeu - where Real Madrid have outscored opponents 18-0 in Champions League play this season - but Manchester City (19-7-9) are poised not to let their Premier League obligations be secondary to reaching the final in Milan.
"The Premier League is a competition where anyone plays against you from peer to peer," defender Nicolas Otamendi told the club's official website. "There's an intense pace. We play every three or four days and we can't just give the league away."
That's because Manchester City enter the weekend third in the table, ahead of Arsenal on goal difference. While they are determined to win the Champions League this season, a top-three finish will secure them a group spot in next year's competition.
"We have to achieve the aim, which is to get qualified for next season's Champions League," Otamendi said.
The Citizens, who have yielded one goal in their last five matches over all competitions, own a 14-2 scoring advantage while going 4-1-0 in the league this month. They've allowed only one goal during a 2-2-0 road stretch within the division.
Backed by a pair of goals from starlet Kelechi Iheanacho, City rolled to a 4-0 home win over Stoke City on Saturday.
"We're fighting for everything near the top so we knew those three points were important," Otamendi said.
Though they managed only two shots on target and five overall against Real Madrid, the Citizens might be able to return to their aggressive offensive form this weekend.
City have outscored Southampton 12-2 while averaging 7.0 shots on goal during a four-game Premier League winning streak. Kevin De Bruyne had a goal and two assists during the 3-1 home victory over the Saints (15-9-11) on Nov. 28.
"Their mind will be on (Champions League) obviously but we can't rely on that," captain José Fonte told Southampton's official website. "We have to make sure we have a good plan for them, nullify all their weapons."
If Manchester City are to continue their series success, they might have to do it without a couple of key contributors. Yaya Toure sat Tuesday with a muscle problem and David Silva exited in the first half with a hamstring injury, leaving both uncertain for this fixture.
Either absence could bode well for the Saints, who are in the midst of a 4-1-1 stretch and have not allowed more than two goals in 21 league matches since losing to City.
Entering the weekend eighth in the table, Southampton are holding out hope they can earn spot in Europa League next season if things play out in their favour over the final three matches.
"We know at the moment it is not looking good," Fonte said. "We still believe. It is up to us, we need to win the next three games and we will give it all we have.
"Obviously we believe we can win any game."
Dusan Tadic snapped a nine-game league goal drought with a brace in the Saints' 4-2 victory over relegation-bound Aston Villa on April 23.