Which of these giant teams will not make it to the Premier League top four?
Imagine hiring, arguably, the best football coach on the planet and instead of handing him a Champions League berth as a welcome gift, you saddle him with an unwanted distraction of a tournament that is the Europa League. Well, that’s precisely what Manchester City is close to doing to Pep Guardiola, following their failure to beat Arsenal in Manuel Pellegrini’s final home game in charge.
But the worst part, this isn’t even the worst case scenario. This nightmarish situation of finishing outside the top four and failing to qualify for the Champions League could reach gargantuan proportions because it is their bitter city rivals that Man City could lose out this fourth spot to.
Manchester United with yet another insipid display at the weekend somehow managed to squeak a win past a virtually relegated Norwich side and are now in a position to leapfrog their Blue neighbours if they win their final two matches – away to West Ham United and at home to Bournemouth.
City has handed the initiative to the Red side of the city, with their destiny no longer in their own hands. Surely, this is not what Pep signed up for.
And what about the man he is replacing! Pellegrini is lucky he’s already leaving Man City. Allowing this dire United side to finish above them is a sackable offence in itself.
It all started so brightly for the Chilean in his last home game at the Etihad. Sergio Aguero put City in the driving seat as early as the eighth minute but Olivier Giroud quickly levelled for the Gunners when he headed home from a corner.
Kevin de Bruyne made it 2-1 early in the second period with a fine individual effort, only for Alexis Sanchez to fire in an equaliser from the edge of the box.
While the draw means Arsenal, who themselves are in this race for the Champions League spots, need just a point on the final weekend against the already relegated Aston Villa to secure a top-four finish, the Citizens are in danger of being without Premier European football in Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge.
In a season where 5000-1 odds have won Leicester the league title over Mauricio Pochettino led Spurs, this three-way battle for the remaining two Champions League spots is an intriguing watch for the neutrals. On second thought, it is a race that really should not be dignified by the term ‘battle’, especially for clubs the size of United, City and Arsenal.
These three heavyweights of English football, share 18 Premier League titles between them. So to find them scrapping it out for the ‘honour’ of finishing fourth is just plain embarrassing.
In his pre-match press conference for the Arsenal game, Manuel Pellegrini admits there is only one word to describe a failure to finish in top four.
“If you are not in the top four and in the Champions League the next year, to demonstrate you are one of the best teams in England, then for me, it’s a disaster,”
The outgoing Chilean further said,
“It would be a disaster of a season, that’s why I always said last year, when we didn’t win any titles, that it was not a disaster (because City finished second).
“It was not a good season, no, it was not a good season, but a disaster is when you are not involved in the next season’s Champions League. That is a disaster for all the big teams.”
So whatever happens, at least one of the big boys is facing the ‘disaster’ of missing out from the European elite over the final six days of one of the most fascinating English Premier League seasons ever.
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