The equation is simple for Manchester City. If they want to become only the second club to win three successive Premier League crowns, then they have to win virtually every league game between now and May and simultaneously hope for a spectacular meltdown on Merseyside.
Sunday’s date with surprise package Sheffield United will provide a stern test for the reigning champions in their bid to string a long winning run together.
Sheffield United have enjoyed a remarkable first half of the season in what is their first Premier League campaign since 2007. The Blades amazingly find themselves within touching distance of the Champions League places at the midway point of the season, despite operating with by far the smallest wage bill in the league.
They are undefeated on their travels this season and have gone to places like Chelsea and Tottenham and more than earned results. All four of their defeats have come at Bramall Lane so far and only one of them was by more than a goal – a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle earlier in December.
Evidently, Chris Wilder’s side are extremely resilient and difficult to break down and City will not have it all their own way on Sunday evening. Only Liverpool boast a better defensive record than the newly promoted club, who will do everything in their power to restrict the space for City, making under 3.5 goals at 3/4 a tempting bet.
Crucially for City, Sergio Aguero made his return from injury in the win against Leicester just before Christmas. There are few superlatives left to describe the Argentine who has been the best striker the league has seen over the last 10 years.
Aguero started the season in scintillating form, scoring eight goals in his first six appearance, but his goalscoring prowess has since been disrupted by injuries. With chances likely to be at a premium, there is no better striker to fashion chances in tight spaces than Aguero and City will look to him to break the deadlock. At 21/10, he is the most logical choice for first goalscorer.
While Aguero and co. are accustomed to comfortably beating promoted teams at home under Pep Guardiola (eight wins, two draws), they are unlikely to have it so easy on Sunday. The aforementioned resilience of Chris Wilder’s troops means it would be highly unusual for City to run riot in the final Premier League game of the decade.
The trio of John Egan, Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham have comfortably been one of the most effective central defences in the league this season and they have been offered further protection from both the flanks and a disciplined midfield three in front of them.
Of those eight home wins against newly promoted clubs under Guardiola, half have been by a two-goal winning margin. It is 11/4 for them to do it again on Sunday and is certainly within the realms of possibility.
- Under 3.5 goals – 3/4
- Sergio Aguero First Goalscorer – 21/10
- Man City to win by exactly 2 goals – 11/4