Was Tuesday the coming of age for Manchester City in terms of their presence on the European stage, their 3-1 win over Barcelona was thoroughly deserved as Pep Guardiola and his City side exacted revenge for their 4-0 reverse at The Nou Camp a fortnight ago.
They will only truly come of age should they go on and win the Champions League at the end of the season but for now the focus returns to what is an incredibly tight race for the Premier League in which three teams are only split by goal difference at the top of the table.
In a week that has not only seen City dominate Barcelona, it’s also seen Yaya Toure apologise for an apparent ‘misunderstanding’ in regards to comments made towards Guardiola at the start of the season. Perhaps the Ivorian saw his teammates win in midweek and felt he can’t miss out on this any longer. That apology probably comes at just the wrong time to feature for the visit of Middlesbrough this afternoon but expect Toure to be pulling on the Manchester City shirt again soon.
Last weekend saw City go to West Brom on the back of a 6 game run without a win which was subsequently Guardiola’s worst as manager. But that run was thankfully bought to an end with an impressive 4-0 win at The Hawthorns.
Sergio Aguero ended a barren run of his own as he bagged a brace while Ilkay Gundogan was on hand to bag a brace of his own in what would be the first two of his four goal haul last weeekend. City have found their groove again and Middlesbrough are going to have their work cut out when they visit The Etihad today.
They do come here off the back of a much needed win last weekend, that 2-0 win over Bournemouth was their first since beating basement side Sunderland back in August. A run of form which has seen them slide down the table but thanks to goals from Gaston Ramirez and Stuart Downing they have moved up to 15th and given them a bit of daylight between them and the drop zone.
That win lifts the pressure slightly on Aitor Karanka but the former Real Madrid manager will know that his side can’t afford to only pick up two wins in 10 matches as that’s the kind of form that could have you in the midst of a relegation scrap.
Then again perhaps that is what Middlesbrough expected this season anyway, so 17th would still be viewed as a relative success but they won’t just want to rely on just beating the drop on the final day they would like to move further away from the dreaded drop zone and try establish themselves as a Premier League outfit.
They travelled to Arsenal a fortnight ago and came away with a creditable 0-0 draw and if they were to get something similar today then you would have to consider that another successful game on the road, if anything today is somewhat of a free hit.
That said I still think this City team who are riding high after Champions League success in midweek will have too much for the ‘Boro and will go to open up a gap on Arsenal and Liverpool who play a day later, City to win and have the rest of the chasing pack playing catch up.