Manchester City is running away with the Premier League title, but each game the club plays still maintains a historic element to it. Here's what could stand in the way of glory and matching Arsenal's 2003-2004 feat.
Manchester City is running away with the Premier League title, but each game the club plays still maintains a historic element to it.
With Pep Guardiola's side launching an all-out assault to become the first team since Arsenal in 2003-2004 to go an entire EPL campaign without losing, the spotlight gets brighter from game to game. Factor in that the club is still alive on three other fronts–FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League–and the potential for a truly special season remains tantalizingly alive.
That said, nothing comes easy in Europe, and no Premier League game should be taken for granted–even with a 15-point lead at the top of the table. Fortunately for Man City, Guardiola manages like each game is his last, and the club won't lose sight of its goals by overlooking any opponent. That doesn't mean roadblocks are not in its path, and with the target on City getting bigger and bigger as the season goes on, the pressure will be that much greater to keep that 0 in the L column.
Here are the biggest hurdles for Man City to clear en route to creating history:
PREMIER LEAGUE PLAY
Of Man City's remaining 16 league games, half are at home and half are away from the Etihad. Five of them stand out as true banana peels on the road to becoming Invincible:
SUNDAY AT LIVERPOOL
If there's a club that can match City's attacking firepower, it's Liverpool, even without Philippe Coutinho. Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino still combine to form a dangerous attacking trident, and the addition of big-money center back Virgil van Dijk should help Liverpool both in the back and on set pieces, where City could be more vulnerable.
Anfield is no easy place to secure a victory, though City forward Raheem Sterling will surely be out to prove a point at the place he used to call home.
Their first meeting: City rolled to a 5-0 rout at the Etihad, but the course of the game changed drastically on Mane's high boot to Man City goalkeeper Ederson, which saw the forward sent off and Liverpool go hopelessly down to 10 men.
FEBRUARY 25 AT ARSENAL
If Arsenal wants to hold onto its place in Premier League history, it can take matters into its own hands. By this point, Alexis Sanchez could be playing for a team in Manchester (not necessarily City!), though, and from a pure talent standpoint, Arsenal simply doesn't hold a candle to City. It's worth noting that this game could very well be postponed. It clashes with the date of the League Cup final, which could also be a Man City-Arsenal showdown.
Their first meeting: City eased to a 3-1 home win, though Alexandre Lacazette's 65th-minute goal pulled Arsenal within one before Gabriel Jesus secured the points.
MARCH 3 VS. CHELSEA
The defending champions won't be repeating, but that doesn't mean they can't have a say in the manner in which they concede the title. Antonio Conte has prepared many a team to counter an attacking juggernaut to a successful degree, and he'll have his hands full with trying to do so for a second time this season.
Their first meeting: City eked out a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge, with former Chelsea product Kevin De Bruyne netting the game-winner in the second half.
APRIL 7 VS. MANCHESTER UNITED
City had no problem winning at Old Trafford in their earlier matchup, but for Jose Mourinho, there would be few things sweeter than playing spoiler for his crosstown nemesis. Not having Paul Pogba in the opening matchup of the season forced Mourinho's tactical hand, but provided Pogba is fit to play in April, we could well see a much different approach for the Red Devils.
Their first meeting: Nicolas Otamendi, of all people, scored the match-winner in the 54th minute, after Marcus Rashford's goal in first-half stoppage time had sent the clubs into the locker room at 1-all.
APRIL 14 AT TOTTENHAM
Tottenham's top-four fight figures to go down to the wire, so Spurs will have the added pressure to secure points as it fights for its place in Europe. Given it'll be City's last true test against a top-six team (the club's final four matches are vs. Swansea, at West Ham, vs. Huddersfield, at Southampton), if Pep's charges make it this far unbeaten, it will have the feel of a final at Wembley Stadium.
Their first meeting: Man City made a statement in a 4-1 win at the Etihad, with Tottenham only spoiling the clean sheet in second-half stoppage time through Christian Eriksen.
Introducing SPORTS ILLUSTRATED TV, your new home for classic sports movies, award-winning documentaries and original sports programming such as Planet Futbol TV, SI TV’s weekly soccer show. Start your seven-day free trial now on Amazon Channels.
Bristol City proved to be a more difficult foe than expected in the first leg of the League Cup semifinals, but City still prevailed, 2-1. Barring a stunning road loss on Jan. 23, that'll be one final place booked–with a date for the trophy against Chelsea or Arsenal looming in late February.
Man City eased its way to the FA Cup round of 32, where it will play either Cardiff City or Mansfield. Don't expect any stunners there.
In the Champions League, City had the relative pleasure of drawing FC Basel for the round of 16. It'll be up to the luck of the draw as to who comes in the quarterfinals, provided City takes care of business to get there, but given the current matchups, there should be little doubt in City advancing to the next stage in each of the three cup competitions.