If Saturday 17th April was a pivotal day in the title race than the same can certainly be said about this season’s intriguing race for the final Champions League qualification place- the much talked about fourth placed finish. Fate always seems to play its part in the Premiership end-of-season drama and we find ourselves with that situation again as Manchester City and Tottenham meet each other at Eastlands, on 5th May, for what is shaping up to be a blockbuster of a fixture. It is looking like advantage Tottenham right now, so the pressure on City will increase because it seemed that they were the favourites to finish fourth up until last weekend. Clearly whoever loses this specific race will be completely distraught given how neck-and-neck it’s been but are the consequences greater for the Manchester club?
There is a £30m pot available for the team that gets in to the Champions League and City would be able to attract more of the ‘stars’ than Spurs would given their vast spending power. If they brought players who were already successful but needed that extra challenge, e.g. Craig Bellamy and Carlos Tevez, last summer than they will be able to buy the best ones should they qualify. They may have failed with that audacious bid for Kaka but the lure of Champions League football, combined with the fact that is one of the wealthiest clubs in the world now, would prove hard to resist for the finest foreign players should City come knocking on the door. Considering that two or three seasons ago no-one would have expected City to be on the verge of Champions League qualification it means that their transformation, especially on the financial side, will have been noticed by those players that don’t care about the history of a club but would rather know about their contracts and whether their prospective employers are in Europe’s best and biggest domestic cup competition.
This all adds more to the demands at City as if trying to win the remaining four football matches wasn’t tough enough. A glance at the fixtures show that City has the tougher run-in compared to Tottenham. They travel to Arsenal this weekend, where much of the match will give evidence as to who has the better morale after damaging results in their last outings, and aside from their crunch meeting with Tottenham, they play Aston Villa (who could possibly be in with the slightest chance of claiming fourth) and finish the season at West Ham- who might not be safe by then. Tottenham, on the other hand, go to Old Trafford in their next match, before completing the campaign with matches against Bolton and Burnley- either side of their trip to Eastlands. Therefore, if Spurs win their home match with Bolton on 1st May, and keep a two-point lead over City as it currently is, they can afford to go to Eastlands the Wednesday after that and end up with a draw. This is because, and with all due respect to Burnley, Tottenham will surely be favourites to win at Turf Moor on the final day of the season, compared to City having to win at Upton Park.
City have spent heavily in an attempt to be successful so fourth now becomes crucial seeing as they haven’t won any of the domestic cups. Ex-manager Mark Hughes spent approximately £200m on players and it’s up to Roberto Mancini to succeed where the owners deemed that Hughes couldn’t. The sacking of Hughes gave the first impressions that the owners are going to act in the same ruthless style that Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich has done during his time at Stamford Bridge. The possibility of Mancini being shown the door can’t be ruled out if they fail in the next four games, whereas Harry Redknapp is probably in his last job and is almost certain to be at White Hart Lane next term. While the quality of the players in every position is pretty similar at both clubs, City’s are of a supposed higher value and the differences in the philosophy at both Tottenham and Man City will be there to see come May. “Money can’t buy success” is something that has been mentioned several times to various teams and it will be interesting to see what happens to the City squad because the likes of Bellamy, Tevez and Gareth Barry moved there to further their ambitions and Champions League football must be near the top of their list. Will these guys stay true to their contracts if they don’t finish fourth? Are they loyal and patient enough to recognise that the club is in the middle of a project?
With the off-the-pitch situation providing as much talking points as to what will happen on the field of play, it seems that the second best race this season has the makings of a great climax. Tottenham’s fantastic results against Arsenal and Chelsea will have surprised City who looked in a much more comfortable position one week ago. Even though Spurs haven’t played in the Champions League, City’s expectations show that rich owners demand instant results- Mancini is only ending his first season in charge yet the pressure is greater on him than it is on Redknapp. City supposedly had all the advantages, which included games in hand, a greater squad depth and the ability to grind out results yet it is the north London side that is making the most of their squad, style and a knowledgeable manager when it matters most- at this present time. Arguably both deserve to finish fourth, but only one can and for City’s sake it seems like it has to happen now.
You can follow me on www.twitter.com/prashster