If the first half to the season was a sign of things to come, then City would be champions sooner rather than later, and as FA Cup season approached and Champions League football set to return, City were being talked about as potential quadruple winners. Not by the fans, it must be stressed, we had been there before with Manuel Pellegrini and, in fairness, we knew better than to get our hopes up.
2nd January 2018 – Manchester City 3-1 Watford
After the winning run came to an end at Crystal Palace, City looked to get back to winning ways against a Watford side they thumped 6-0 at Vicarage Road in September. The result left City at the top of the table, where they remained. Watford had faded since that day, but still sat in mid table, and they were anxious to avoid another drubbing at the hands of the blues.
But the signs for The Hornets were not good as Raheem Sterling scored with just 38 seconds on the clock, the quickest Premier League goal so far in the season. And when Kevin de Bruyne’s cross was turned into his own goal by Christian Kabasele after 13 minutes, it looked like being a long night for the visitors. Sergio Aguero scored City’s third goal their dominance deserved, while Andre Gray pulled a goal back for Watford with 8 minutes left.
It was a result that left City a huge fifteen points clear of United, and if they kept winning, the blues would have the title wrapped up by late March, the earliest winners of the Premier League.
6th January 2018 – Manchester City 4-1 Burnley
The FA Cup threw up a home tie with fellow Premier League side Burnley. The blues had already beaten them 3-0 in the league, and the match should have been a formality for City. But when Ashley Barnes gave the visitors the lead on 25 minutes, alarm bells started to ring. Would a Burnley victory be classed as a shock result?
The Clarets went in 1-0 at the break, but two quick fire goals from Sergio Aguero put City in control. His first came after 56 minutes from a quickly taken free kick, his second two minutes later following Ilkay Gundogan’s brilliant back heel.
Leroy Sane collected David Silva’s pass for number three before Bernardo Silva secured City’s place in round four, tapping into an empty net on 82 minutes. It was a scare but City came through to set up a visit to Cardiff in the fourth round.
9th January 2018 – Manchester City 2-1 Bristol City
City could have faced either Chelsea or Arsenal in the semi-final, but were drawn against League One Bristol City at Etihad. The visitors had beaten Manchester United in the quarter final, and looked to add City as a Manchester double.
And it was looking good for the Robins when they took the lead on the stroke of half-time. John Stones brought down Bobby Reid, and the Bristol man dusted himself off to score the resulting penalty. It was a goal their excellent play in the first half deserved and served as a wake up call to City. But would they accept it?
Ten minutes into the second half, Kevin de Bruyne equalised after a one-two with Raheem Sterling, but the blues still struggled to break down a dogged Robins defence. But their resistance was finally broken two minutes into injury time. Bernardo Silva crossed and Sergio Aguero headed home to send the blues to Ashton Gate with a slender lead. It was tough on the Robins, but with an away goal, there was always a chance of a major shock.
14th January 2018 – Liverpool 4-3 Manchester City
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and City losing at Anfield and on 14th January, it proved to be just that again. It was an eagerly awaited clash between two of the Premier League most attacking teams, and it turned out to be a brilliant encounter.
And as usual at Anfield, City fell behind early, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain scoring for the home side, but Leroy Sane equalised for the blues five minutes before the interval. It looked like City might, just might come away from Anfield with something.
As it turned out, they wouldn’t. Three goals in nine minutes gave Liverpool a 4-1 lead. Roberto Firmino scored on 59 minutes, Sadio Mane increased the lead two minutes later and Mo Salah made it 4-1 on 68 minutes. The blues were shell-shocked; there was no coming back from this, surely?
Bernardo Silva pulled a goal back on 84 minutes, and when Ilkay Gundogan scored in the first minute of injury time, what looked like an impregnable lead suddenly looked vulnerable. Sergio Aguero’s header gave the home side an anxious moment, but he was offside anyway so it wouldn’t have counted.
It was City’s first league defeat of the season, but the blues still held a hug fifteen point lead over United.
20th January 2018 – Manchester City 3-1 Newcastle
Newcastle visited City with a less than perfect record at the blues. On their last visit, City won 6-1 with Sergio Aguero helping himself to five. And the Argentine would be the scourge of the Toon again as City got back to winning ways.
Aguero scored his first with his head, getting a touch to Kevin de Bruyne’s goal-bound effort to send the blues in 1-0 at the break. The striker got his second on 63 minutes, converting a penalty after Raheem Sterling was brought down by Javier Manquillo. Newcastle pulled a goal back four minutes later, but Aguero had the last word, completing his hat-trick after a Leroy Sane’s run and cross.
It was Aguero’s second hat-trick of the season after grabbing one at Watford and the 11th of his City career, as the blues put the Liverpool setback behind them and continued their push for the title.
23rd January 2018 – Bristol City 2-3 Manchester City
The semi-final of the League Cup saw City travel to Ashton Gate holding a slender lead. If the Robins won 1-0, City were out. It was that simple, and City played an almost full strength side to prevent that from happening.
The blues dominated the first half, but had to wait until the 43rd minute to break the deadlock, with Leroy Sane opening the scoring. 1-0 became 2-0 four minutes after half time when Sergio Aguero scored as City hit the Robins on a devastating counter attack and it was looking very comfortable for the blues.
Bristol City pulled a goal back on 64 minutes and in the fourth minute of injury time, the home side levelled the game. If the Robins scored again in the time remaining, it would go to extra time. As the home side searched for a third, City broke away and Kevin de Bruyne calmly finished to send the blues to Wembley.
28th January 2018 – Cardiff City 0-2 Manchester City
City returned to the place of their 1994 fourth round defeat at the hands of the third division Bluebirds, looking for a place in the fifth round as they sought an unprecedented domestic treble.
Kevin de Bruyne’s cheeky free kick gave the blues the lead in the 8th minute. As the wall jumped in anticipation of the ball coming over the wall, de Bruyne anticipated their actions and rolled the ball under them and into the back of the net. The blues had a scare when Claudio Bravo dropped a long shot from a Cardiff striker, but managed to scramble back to prevent it crossing the line.
Bernardo Silva then had a goal wrongly disallowed as he thumped a shot into the top corner, but then crossed magnificently for Raheem sterling to head home City’s second and finish the tie as a contest.
The second half was notable for Leroy Sane’s injury. He sped away from his own half and took on the Cardiff defence, before Joe Bennett ended it with a reckless challenge that deserved a red card, but only received a yellow. Bennett was later sent off but by then, City were through.
31st January 2018 – Manchester City 3-0 West Brom
City’s final game in January saw struggling West Brom as the latest visitors. The blues lead had been cut to twelve points and the team were not in the mood to drop any more. West Brom meanwhile, sat bottom of the table on 20 points, 48 points behind the blues.
Fernandinho gave City the lead on 19 minutes, converting Kevin de Bruyne’s precise pass. City were rarely troubled by the Baggies and doubled the lead on 68 minutes. De Bruyne turned goalscorer as he fired home Raheem Sterling’s cross. City dominance was such that it took 88 minutes for the visitors to muster a shot on goal, and just a minute later, Sergio Aguero showed how it should be done as he finished from Raheem Sterling’s reverse ball.
The result, coupled with United’s 2-0 defeat at Spurs saw the blues once again open up a fifteen point lead at the top, with the very real possibility they would win the title with victory over their city rivals at the beginning of April, if it hadn’t already been won.