The fight for the Premier League title is very much on and it’s a situation Manchester City have been in before.
It’s clear Pep Guardiola’s side aren’t quite as polished as they have been in previous years but they are still firmly in the hunt for three trophies this season. They put down another marker in the title race on Saturday, beating Liverpool 4-1 to close the gap on Arsenal before the Gunners face Leeds.
Whether any of the FA Cup, Champions League or Premier League trophies end up in City’s hands depends heavily on the next six games of their season.
This is the sort of game that simply has to end with a victory for City if they are to defend their Premier League title. Southampton are right in the thick of the relegation battle and will be fearful of facing a side like City.
It should be said, though, that the highlight of Nathan Jones’ short and disastrous stint as Southampton manager was when his side knocked City out of the Carabao Cup.
This is one of the defining nights of the season and possibly also for Guardiola’s time as the Manchester City boss. He is hell-bent on breaking City’s duck in the Champions League and with each season that passes it seems all the greater a task.
They have been drawn against one of the major favourites to win the competition in Bayern Munich so this is a tie the rest of the UCL teams will keep a close eye on. It will also be fascinating to see Joao Cancelo come up against the team he is on loan from as he will be eligible to play.
This is a very difficult match to judge from a distance given everyone seems to be waiting for Leicester to click into gear, on the assumption that the squad is just too good to actually get relegated.
There is no getting away from the fact they are right in the fight and that is arguably more dangerous to City than if the Foxes have managed to pull away from the drop zone by the time this game comes around.
Either way, while it should be three points for City, it is a game that will require top concentration.
Guardiola will return to the Allianz Arena with his Man City side for the first time since leaving the Bundesliga. While the two sides faced off in three Champions League group stages in the early 2010s, Guardiola was the Bayern coach for two of those.
In terms of what this game means for City, we will have to wait to see how the first leg pans out. They will hope to gain a strong result against Thomas Tuchel’s Bayern in the first leg meaning they aren’t chasing the tie when they travel to Bavaria.
A third different competition in the six games shows just how crucial a phase of the season this is for City. They avoided Manchester United and Brighton in the semi-final draw, coming up against Championship promotion hopefuls Sheffield United.
The Blades are looking fairly well-placed to come back to the Premier League with automatic promotion and their FA Cup journey has been impressive. That said, City should not have any trouble winning this game at Wembley providing they approach it in the right manner.
The big one.
As has been the case for weeks now, this game is earmarked as the one where the title could be won or lost by either side. There is plenty of football still to play between now and this game, but City and Arsenal will presumably be within a few points or even fewer of each other when the Gunners head north to the Etihad.
It promises to be an incredible spectacle and a great touchline battle between Mikel Arteta and Guardiola. Six Premier League games will remain after that one for City, so winning there could be crucial.