City face Liverpool at The Etihad on Tuesday on the back of two straight defeats for the first time this season. The blues trail 3-0 from the first leg at Anfield, and only a victory by four clear goals, barring a 3-0 win and a penalty shoot-out, will see the blues through.
But for City boss Pep Guardiola, failure is not an option against the reds. Before Saturday’s derby, Guardiola said he was prioritising the Champions League ahead of the game against United, which he did so by leaving Kevin de Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero on the bench. It was a bold move by Pep, who knows it is only a matter of time before City are crowned champions. But it was also a risky one.
Victory against Liverpool on Tuesday and progression to the semi-final will justify Pep’s decision to field the derby team he put out. He sacrificed winning the derby and securing the league in pursuit of what is deemed as Europe’s most prestige trophy. The blues have never won the Champions League, or its previous incarnation, the European Cup.
But should the unthinkable happen and City exit the competition, he risks disgruntling the fans, who saw an opportunity to win the league against their fiercest rivals disappear on Saturday. Winning the derby means a lot to City fans, who have had to sit in the shadow of their neighbours for the best part of twenty years. They have watched as United fans revelled with title after title, trophy after trophy, while City bounced between leagues. So to win the title against them would have been the icing on the cake after a magnificent season.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the fans will turn on Pep if indeed City fail on Tuesday. Blues fans have been through too much to now reject the manager who has brought them so much in so little time, and there is the prospect of so much success to come in the future with Pep at the helm.
But without doubt, the blues must progress on Tuesday if Pep’s reputation as one of the best coaches in the world is to remain in tact. The blues can do it. The fans know they can. Pep knows they can.
It is now time to show it.