This weekend is looking as though it could well be one of the most pivotal weekends in the Premier League title race this season. Liverpool are away at Manchester United, Arsenal are away at Tottenham and Chelsea are away to Aston Villa – big games with big implications. It is another game, though, that could well be the most defining.
The earliest game of the weekend will see Manchester City travel to the KC Stadium to take on Hull City. At first glance it doesn’t seem too problematic for City, although certainly no pushover, but the details reveal a little more. City have not been in great form in recent weeks, so an away game to a team with a strong defensive record could be just the banana peel they would like to avoid right now.
City performed better in the Champions League against Barcelona in midweek than they did against Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup last Sunday. That is the wrong way around, you would think. City may well have actually been better playing in a big game this weekend rather than a game they are expected to win. They have seemingly played down to their opposition in recent weeks which has been to their detriment. The trouble for City, though, is that they really cannot afford it — not right now. Chelsea are nine points ahead, although they have played three games more than City, and every dropped point is crucial. City can of course draw level with three wins in those games in hand, but any slip-ups could be critical for their title bid.
The game against Hull is not even one of their more difficult games in the run-in. The difficult ones, where you realistically might drop points, are still to come. Which makes this game even more crucial. City must win. The fact they play first could well go against them too. If City were to drop points, imagine the lift it would give Chelsea heading into their game against Aston Villa. It would be just what they need — that’s more pressure on City. Manuel Pellegrini‘s men must win; they cannot afford to drop these points and in the process give Chelsea a lift too — not at this stage. It’s a situation they simply must avoid.
The form they have been in recently, though, suggests that this could be tricky for them. To win the Premier League there are a host of difficult situations that you are forced to navigate successfully; it’s part of the deal. No matter what form you’re in or injuries you have or situation you encounter, you just have to win. If City want to be champions this season, then Hull away on Saturday, regardless of form, is a game they will have to win. To be champions, it’s part of the deal.