Manchester City have the chance to close the gap on Liverpool and Chelsea at the top of the Premier League on Wednesday, as they welcome basement club Sunderland to the Etihad Stadium.
City lost crucial ground in the title race on Sunday with a 3-2 loss at Anfield against the league leaders, Liverpool, and will be seeking redemption against Gus Poyet’s struggling Black Cats.
It’s a repeat of the 2014 Capital One Cup final at Eastlands, and Manchester City will be hoping to emulate their performance from Wembley to claim an important three points.
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: Wednesday, April 16
Time: 7:45 p.m BST/2:45 p.m. ET
TV Info: NBC Sports Live Extra (U.S. only)
Live Stream: NBC Sports website (U.S. only)
City looking to move within four points
Manchester City’s crippling loss away to Liverpool on Sunday meant the destiny of the Premier League is no longer in Manuel Pellegrini’s hands.
If the City manager could have orchestrated a victory at Anfield, it would have seen his side move two points adrift of the Premier League summit with two games in hand.
As it stands, though, City have to hope for a slip from Liverpool if they’re to get their hands on the trophy that called the Etihad home following the 2011-12 campaign.
City now sit seven points behind Liverpool with their two games in hand, as the Premier League confirmed:
TABLE Here's how things stand in the Barclays Premier League after a gripping day in the title race... pic.twitter.com/2bIylKBUW8— Premier League (@premierleague) April 13, 2014
However, striker Edin Dzeko believes the title race isn’t over yet and claims City have a great chance of pipping both Liverpool and Chelsea to the post, as he told David Anderson of the Mirror:
It’s too early to say if Sunday’s result will decide where the title ends up because we still have six games to play and Liverpool and Chelsea both have four left. People talk about pressure and such like, but that doesn’t really matter - just who wins the most games between now and the end of the season. I firmly believe, like the last time we won the title, that it will go right to the wire despite our defeat at Anfield.
City are no strangers to snatching titles at the last minute, or rather the last second, as their 2011-12 triumph came in the dying moments of the season thanks to Sergio Aguero’s strike at home to QPR.
However, to be in that situation, they need to dispose of Sunderland on Wednesday, who have a lot to play for themselves.
Black Cats needing “miracle” to stay up
Sitting bottom of the Premier League and seven points away from safety, the mood is ironically gloomy at the Stadium of Light—and a visit to the Etihad is unlikely to lift the club’s spirits.
Manager Poyet looked to have reversed the fortunes of the club when he took charge back in October, but a string of poor results has seen his side slip into the Premier League abyss.
As reported by BBC Sport, the Uruguayan said his side face an incredibly tough task in avoiding the drop:
Sometimes the table doesn’t lie. It would be a miracle to stay up. It’s very hard to take, it’s not nice. I imagine how hard it is for the fans, but there is no place to hide. I am responsible because I am in charge, and I accept full responsibility.
Travelling to Manchester will be a daunting task for Poyet’s men, with City winning 14 of their 15 matches at home this season and scoring 52 goals to boot.
However, Sunderland simply have to perform if they’re to stand any chance of keeping their Premier League status intact. Such hunger has seen relegation favourites cause all kinds of shocks over the years, but this would be the scalp of all scalps.
Key stats and prediction
According to 11v11.com, Manchester City haven’t lost a home league match against the Black Cats since January 1998.
As OptaJoe revealed, Wes Brown’s own goal against Everton on Saturday was the sixth time a Black Cat has turned through his own net this season:
6 - Sunderland have now conceded more own goals than any other Premier League team this season. Blooper.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 12, 2014
Sunderland won the reverse fixture 1-0 thanks to Phil Bardsley’s goal, but City took the honours in the Capital One Cup final.
Goals from Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas cancelled out Fabio Borini’s early strike to give Pellegrini his first trophy in England.
City left-back Aleksandar Kolarov has scored two goals in his last two games at the Etihad against Sunderland.
Prediction: Manchester City 4-1 Sunderland