Manchester City sunk to a 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium as they snatched mediocrity from the jaws of victory.
Sergio Aguero struck twice in the second half and it looked as if Manchester City would pull within 11 points of Liverpool, piling pressure on the league leaders. Yet, Fernandinho’s own goal in second-half stoppage time put an end to the hopes of winning.
The Cityzens now find themselves 16 points behind Liverpool and if that gap remains after the midweek Premier League games, the gap could be as many as 19 points. The Reds will cash in their game in hand against West Ham in a just over a week’s time.
Pep Guardiola’s team is struggling, which is an incredible statement considering they have tallied 48 points from 69 possible. Yet, the team’s inconsistencies have caused them to drop points this term. A weak mentality has prevented Manchester City from making comebacks or, if a comeback has been made, hanging onto the lead.
Several times this season, Manchester City have thrown away points against lesser quality teams such as Norwich City, Crystal Palace, and Manchester United. Against Liverpool at Anfield, things may not have gone their way in the first half, but the reigning Premier League champions should have had the mentality to get back into the game. Jurgen Klopp has called his side “mentality monsters” in the past. Manchester City have looked like mentality dwarves this term.
With the Premier League slipping away, if it hasn’t already, Manchester City should be worried about their upcoming Champions League last 16 tie with Spain’s Real Madrid. The Spanish side will welcome Manchester City to the Santiago Bernabeu on 26 February for the first leg.
Zinedine Zidane’s team are definitely not the team it was over 18 months ago when it defeated Liverpool in the Champions League final. Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit after the final is the obvious reason for Los Blancos not being the same team. However, Real Madrid will still be a difficult side for Manchester City to play. There are definitely other teams that would have been on Guardiola’s list of potential opponents when the draw was made in December.
Real Madrid are second in La Liga behind leaders Barcelona due to goal difference. It has been a difficult season for Zidane and company. Just as it looked like Eden Hazard could fill the void left by Ronaldo, he suffered a hairline fracture in his foot.
Although initial reports stated Hazard would miss the remainder of the season, the Belgian is targetting the Champions League last 16 showdown with Manchester City for his return. His availability could make the tie even trickier for Guardiola’s team.
According to leading sportsbooks, Manchester City are the favourite to lift the Champions League trophy. It is strange that sportsbooks haven’t wavered from making the Cityzens the favourite despite all of their inconsistencies. Liverpool, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Bayern Munich round out the top five favourites, according to bookies.
Manchester City will play six domestic cup and league games before facing Real Madrid at the end of February. Sheffield United, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham, and Leicester City will all come in the league.
Meanwhile, Manchester City must face Fulham in the FA Cup fourth round and Manchester United in the Carabao Cup semifinal second leg. It isn’t an easy road to the Santiago Bernabeu. Although full-back Benjamin Mendy believes Manchester City will “be on fire”, they could just as likely be extinguished in the Spanish capital.