Having had their Premier League title charge reignited by Liverpool’s loss to Chelsea on Sunday, Manchester City will be wary of letting the opportunity slip when they meet Everton in arguably their toughest remaining game of the season.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men sit in third place with 77 points, three behind leaders Liverpool and one adrift of Chelsea, but with an extra match to play and a superior goal difference, three successive wins should secure the trophy.
Their final two games are at home to Aston Villa and West Ham United, both woefully out of form, and the 2011-12 champions would back themselves strongly to take six points against sides in the bottom half of the table.
The trip to Goodison Park on Saturday looks less straightforward, however, as Everton, who have lost two of their past three matches, still have an outside chance of finishing fourth for the first time since 2005. City fought back from a goal down to win 3-1 when the sides last met, and Argentine right back Pablo Zabaleta said they could not waste the opportunity.
“The next game is Everton away and we know it is going to be tough. Everton away has been difficult for us. They are playing for fourth place so nothing is going to be easy and we need to show character, personality. We have got a big chance.”
“We said before Crystal Palace we need Liverpool to drop some points. They have but nothing is settled. We need to continue working hard like we have done during the whole season and hopefully we can win the next three games.”
Pellegrini may risk attacking midfielder David Silva, who missed the win over Crystal Palace with an ankle injury.
Everton find themselves in the awkward position of being able to hand local rivals Liverpool a boost in their challenge for the title should they win, and while the players are unlikely to fight for anything other than victory, some fans may not be too unhappy if they lose to City.
Defeat by Southampton was a major blow to their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League and fourth-placed Arsenal need a home win over West Bromwich Albion on Sunday (1230) to secure a place in Europe’s elite club competition for the 17th consecutive season.
Liverpool travel to Crystal Palace on Monday with plenty of time to digest whether or not Everton did them a favour, but regardless of where they are placed in the title race. “We want to win, of course, and we are in a brilliant position, Rodgers, whose side are guaranteed a top-three finish, said Brendan Rodgers. “But we must enjoy it — this is brilliant, the supporters are loving it, we are showing the real scale of the club and what these players are about, continued…