It has been inevitable that Manchester City would win the Premier League for quite some time now but they have been presented with an opportunity to do so in historic fashion.
The clash with bitter rivals Manchester United on 7 April was pinpointed as a potential title decider as soon as the fixtures came out; a match between the two big-spending northern powerhouses who were tipped to be neck-and-neck for the title.
It hasn’t turned out like that at all and City have been so dominant that they can clinch the title – the earliest ever Premier League triumph – by beating Jose Mourinho’s men on Saturday.
That means that Mourinho has no shortage of key questions to answer as he takes United to the Etihad looking to avoid one of their most embarrassing days in recent memory.
Losing here would be up there with the 6-1 home defeat in 2011 and the 2012 Aguero moment as dark days for Red Devils fans and we’ve taken a look at how Mourinho goes about avoiding it happening…
Parking the bus has been Mourinho’s go-to tactic in the big way games against the elite sides in the Premier League since his appointment at Old Trafford and that has drawn much ire from fans and pundits alike.
Last season, his conservative approach saw United score just one goal in their five trips to face their top six rivals as they suffered three defeats and procured just two points out of the available 15 – 0-0 draws against United’s biggest rivals, City and Liverpool.
This time around, their greater sense of endeavour at the Emirates was rewarded with a 3-1 win and they were able to frustrate Liverpool 0-0 again. But defeats against Spurs and Chelsea – 2-0 and 1-0 respectively – show that Mourinho’s bus parking isn’t proving especially successful.
For the former Chelsea boss to get away with such an aesthetically unappealing gameplan, it has to be successful and that has simply not been the case so far. He is likely go for it again on Saturday but will it work?
De Bruyne, valued at £99m by Transfermarkt, is expected to go head to head with Mo Salah for the PFA Player of the Year award after a staggering season in which he has dominated game after game from midfield.
He is the man who makes City tick and Mourinho will have to find a way of formatting his midfield that somehow stifles the Belgian’s influence. Otherwise, it will be a long afternoon for the visitors.
Guardiola has a dazzling array of stars to choose from and some – such as Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus – offer a more immediate goal threat so Mourinho has to decide which of them it is most important to stop.
Saturday’s clash is sandwiched by both legs of City’s Champions League quarter-final tie against Liverpool.
With Guardiola’s men all but guaranteed to win the league for months and months, European glory has become the more accurate barometer of whether their season has been a success.
For that reason, Pep might be tempted to prioritise the two-legged encounter with Jurgen Klopp’s side to ensure they make it to the semi-finals and keep their hopes of winning three trophies this season alive.
On the other hand, City captain Vincent Kompany has admitted the opportunity to beat United and win the league is ‘once in a lifetime‘ so the pressure is on Guardiola not to let it slip.
Rotation might cause Mourinho problems in terms of second-guessing how City will line up on Saturday and that could cause problems for a manager who is so obsessive over reacting to what his opponent does.