Connect with us


Far from sharp, Manchester City finished the job against Nottingham Forest to stay in the Premier League title race



Far from sharp, Manchester City finished the job against Nottingham Forest to stay in the Premier League title race

The inevitability of victory at Manchester City was challenged – but not defeated – on Sunday as the reigning champions came around but recorded a 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest to keep them in control of the Premier League title race.

A match against the 17th and 17th best teams in the league felt like an opportune moment for Pep Guardiola to rest some of his best players, and so he did. Erling Haaland was named as one of the substitutes, while an ill Phil Foden was left out of the squad for the match entirely, although City made it look like they had their bases covered with the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Jeremy Doku and Julian Alvarez . The score might have indicated that, but the game status was a completely different story.

City may have led by a wide margin in terms of possession and passing statistics, but Forest were the team with the better chances throughout the match. The visitors’ 1-0 lead at half-time, thanks to Josko Gvardiol’s 32nd-minute goal, felt like it was on shaky ground as the hosts beat them 8-7 to win the expected goals battle by 1.41 to 0.32. City also survived two near-disastrous errors from Ederson that could have led to goals for Forest, putting a damper on their title hopes.

A similar version of events unfolded in the second half, but the gap between the teams ultimately tells the story of the match after the break. City had possession but Forest took more shots with a margin of 7-3 and 0.64 expected goals to 0.45. However, the fact that City can call on Haaland and De Bruyne to help them out of trouble meant they were able to overcome any shortcomings and maintain their lead to once again emerge from the weekend unscathed. Things got worse for Forest when manager Nuno Espirito Santo refused to take off a visibly injured Murillo, paying for it based on Haaland’s insurance goal.

It means City have survived perhaps one of their toughest remaining fixtures as Forest desperately need points as they hover just one point above the relegation zone. There is one more game scheduled before the season ends for Guardiola’s team: a showdown against Tottenham Hotspur, days before the final game of the season. As Spurs proved in a 3-2 defeat to Arsenal earlier on Sunday, they have what it takes not to roll over against the top teams. The respective displays between the Gunners and City showed that there could still be a few wrinkles in this title race, as both contenders showed their imperfections this weekend.

City may also have to sweat over Ederson’s availability as he came off with an injury at half-time. Stefan Ortega performed well in the second half, just as he did during Ederson’s weeks-long injury earlier this spring.

And yet it feels as difficult as ever to bet against City. Time and time again, they have pulled themselves out of harm’s way, regardless of the circumstances: imperfect games, inconsistent displays from players like Haaland or some other obstacle. It is still City’s responsibility to act on their huge lead in the title race. With a game in hand and a point behind Arsenal, they have a 67.4% chance of winning the title. per Opta. However, they have rarely failed in such a task, which for now offers little reason to doubt their unstoppable character.