May 14, 2015

It seems likely Pep Guardiola will be inheriting a Champions League team in Manchester City according to the final English Premier League standings.

But as Manuel Pellegrini manages his final match for the Citizens on Sunday at in-form Swansea City, what that team will be able to do for Guardiola in the Champions League after his arrival is very much uncertain.

A draw in this match should be enough to see City (19-8-10) through to a fourth-place finish given Manchester United - two points back of City in fifth - trail in goal difference by 18 entering the final match day. United, however, would overtake them with a victory and a loss by City to the Swans.

The only way the Citizens - winless in their last four matches in all competitions - can overtake Arsenal for third and claim direct entry into the group stages of the Champions League is with a victory and the Gunners losing at home to last-place Aston Villa, perhaps the only scenario more unlikely than having picked Leicester City to win the title in the preseason.

"We have been in the Champions League places all season so I hope we can do it with a win this weekend," the Chilean manager told City's official website. "The game is very difficult. Maybe after the Arsenal game everyone thought we were eliminated, but now it has flipped around the other way so we must be very careful."

After being pegged back twice in a 2-2 draw at home versus Arsenal last Sunday, Pellegrini and City were given back their destiny by West Ham United on Tuesday, as the Hammers' 3-2 victory over Manchester United prevented their eternal rivals from taking fourth in the table. But City's potential to secure a top-four finish papers over a season of fits and starts that ultimately led to City's underachievement in league play despite the first semifinal Champions League appearance in club history and a League Cup trophy.

"We still have one game to play and the opportunity to qualify for the Champions League - if we fail, we can't class this as a good season," midfielder Fernando said. "If we do, I think it's been a reasonable season overall because we will have at least finished fourth in the Premier League, won the Capital One Cup and got to the semifinals of the Champions League."

Manchester City took only seven of a possible 42 points (1-4-9) against the other seven teams in the top eight of the table, highlighted by defeats at Tottenham Hotspur (4-1), Liverpool (3-0) and Southampton (4-2). Equally damaging to their title hopes were draws at each relegated side - 0-0 at Aston Villa and Norwich City and 1-1 at Newcastle United - plus a 2-0 defeat at Stoke City.

The common thread to these seven matches was the lack of initiative to impose their will outside the Etihad Stadium. Twelve of their 23 road goals came in four lopsided victories. That's what makes this contest at Swansea City (12-10-15) - who are seeking their fifth consecutive win at the Liberty Stadium - such a tricky proposition.

And that's even with the Swans resting starting goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski as well as starting defenders Ashley Williams and Neil Taylor and midfield force Gylfi Sigurdsson. Manager Francesco Guidolin has opted to rest the quartet so they can be fresh for their respective countries in the European Championship next month.

It hopefully won't take too much of the shine off the Swans, who are coming off their best back-to-back matches of the season. They followed up a 3-1 victory over Liverpool by hammering West Ham United 4-1 at Upton Park on May 7 as Wayne Routledge and Andrew Ayew scored six minutes apart in the first half and Sung-Yueng Ki and Bafetimbi Gomis added markers after the interval.

The strong push to the tape was enough to convince Swansea's board to give Guidolin a two-year contract, which the Italian was more than happy to accept.

"I'm very happy because I won my first challenge," Guidolin told Swansea's official website. "My first challenge was for the club to get to know me, and now we begin the next challenge and I hope to do well. I'm confident in myself and the results have helped me in the period since January - and for that I have to thank the players and my staff."I know I'm not a famous manager, so it's been important for me to have this possibility to work in the Premier League and I'm very proud. But it's important we don't lose our identity. I want my team to play good football and achieve results. This season could be a lesson because in the last 10 years the club has always improved year on year."

Kristoffer Nordfeldt will make his Premier League debut between the sticks after appearing in three cup matches for the Swans. The Sweden international had spent four seasons at Dutch side SC Heerenveen before arriving in Wales to deputise for Fabianski.

"I'm really looking forward to it," said Nordfeldt. "I've waited a long time to make it, so I'm happy that the day for my Premier League debut is coming closer and closer. I knew before the West Ham game that I was going to get the chance to play in the last game of the season, and I'm raring to go."

With 24 goals, Sergio Aguero is tied for second with Leicester City's Jamie Vardy and one behind Tottenham's Harry Kane for the Golden Boot and has scored in five consecutive matches. The Argentina international, though, has not scored in his last six matches versus Swansea after bagging a brace against them in 2011.

Swansea absorbed a 2-1 defeat in the reverse fixture as Yaya Toure's shot deflected off Kelechi Iheanacho and by Fabianski right before the final whistle. The Swans had pulled level on Gomis' goal in the 90th minute, canceling out a first-half marker by ex-Swans striker Wilfried Bony.

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