Manchester City One Step Closer to Champions League Qualification

Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta takes the applause of the crowd in tribute for his final home appearance for the club at the end of the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, on May 16, 2017. (ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Manchester City and manager Pep Guardiola kept their journey towards next season’s UEFA Champions League moving in the right direction on Tuesday with a dominant 3-1 victory against West Bromwich Albion. City, now third in the Premier League table, will require just a point from their final match at Watford to finish in the top four.

Manchester City One Step Closer to Champions League Qualification

An evening that will be remembered by many as an emotional farewell to defender Pablo Zabaleta, the club brought an intense and focused approach with them as they controlled the proceedings throughout the 90 minutes. Strong possession, sharp movements in the opposing half and quality opportunities marked a complete performance at the Etihad Stadium.

Belgian international Kevin De Bruyne and Brazilian Gabriel Jesus made a tremendous impact in the first half, each scoring a goal and assisting the other within a brilliant few minutes. Yaya Toure (57’) added an emphatic third goal in the second half, with Hal Robson-Kanu’s late strike simply consolation for the Baggies.

City respond for Pep

Guardiola is known for his honest and insightful press conferences with the media, often seeming unshakable in his preparation for each and every match. But this week, the build to Tuesday’s match brought about comments that caught the attention of many around the country.

When referring to the pressures of managing sides like Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the Spanish tactician did not hold back. “In my situation, at a big club, I’m sacked.”

It may have sounded like someone feeling defeated at the end of a long season, but Guardiola’s players responded with one of their finest performances of the current term against West Brom.

Throughout his storied European coaching career, the City manager has not often used press conferences to make a statement. Instead, just like in his past teams, it was Guardiola’s squad who made the statement on the pitch and kept their Champions League push alive.

The final round

Manchester City now hold fate in their own hands, with the Premier League’s final matches determining European placement. But thanks to Tuesday’s victory, Guardiola’s team can keep focus strictly on Vicarage Road and Watford.

Liverpool and Arsenal will each need maximum points in their final fixtures, along with help from the Hornets. The Reds will host Middlesbrough, while the Gunners face Everton at the Emirates Stadium.

But with the form that their line-up displayed on Tuesday, Manchester City should feel confident about their chances of securing Champions League football for Pep Guardiola’s second season in England.

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