Manchester City cannot relax against Watford with what's on the line regarding the Champions League
ESPN - Thursday 18th May, 2017
With memories of an emotional farewell to Pablo Zabaleta still fresh in the mind, Manchester City's encouraging 3-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday at the Etihad has put the club on the threshold of automatic Champions League football next season.
With all eyes on the departing Argentina international, it was difficult to focus on the task in hand, to make sure the final day's game at Watford carried as little threat as possible to City's hopes.
As it stands, a draw will ensure a top-four finish, but in order to secure third spot and avoid an early start in the Champions League pre-qualifiers a win at Vicarage Road is still imperative.
With the defence sparsely protected in Guardiola's chosen system, the spotlight fell squarely on the inability of the other centre-backs on offer to form a tight unit in front of an increasingly jittery Claudio Bravo. Neither the gung-ho Nicolas Otamendi nor the laid-back John Stones proved able to hit the right notes playing alongside each other, while Aleksandar Kolarov was jettisoned after a promising early-season switch into the middle of the defence.
The transition in Otamendi's form when partnered with Kompany is a real eye-opener. Suddenly a player prone to flinging himself into horizontal challenges that were doomed to fail looks the part alongside the reliable rhythms of his captain.
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