Manchester City-Swansea City Preview
As everyone chase Manchester City, it becomes more clear with each passing match the only thing the Citizens are pursuing are their spots among the all-time greatest teams in both the history of the Premier League and all of English football.
The champions-elect look to set an English football record with their 15th consecutive league victory Wednesday night against Swansea City at Liberty Stadium in Wales.
Though it seems blasphemous to use the phrase "champions-elect" before Boxing Day, there is little to suggest there is any team capable of slowing down this Manchester City juggernaut or selecting a side among the other 19 in the Premier League capable of making up an ever-expanding deficit of points to Pep Guardiola's men.
The Citizens (15-1-0) continued their unprecedented path with a deserved 2-1 victory over eternal rivals Manchester United in their 175th derby Sunday, ending United's club record-tying 40-match home unbeaten streak in all competitions and 24-match unbeaten run at home in league play since going across town last season and winning 2-1.
David Silva and Nicolas Otamendi capitalized on United's defensive breakdowns on set pieces on either side of halftime, and Ederson preserved the victory with a late reflex double save on close-range shots by Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata. Manchester City set a Premier League single-season record with their 14th consecutive victory, which also matched the overall longest winning streak in English football set by Arsenal from February-August 2001, bridging two seasons.
The win also gave City an imposing 11-point lead over United, with reigning title-holders Chelsea another three points back in third heading into the midweek matches. Guardiola's team has already won at Stamford Bridge in addition to Old Trafford, but he refuses to believe his team has won anything before the season has reached its halfway point.
"It means a lot in the way we played in terms of our confidence," Guardiola noted to Manchester City's official website. "We won points on Chelsea, Arsenal and now Manchester United, but in December, it's impossible to be champions. Everybody can play wherever they want. I am happy to go to the grounds of our contenders and beat all of them."
Guardiola's players remain cautiously confident.
"It's a big gap. If we slip up we are still in the lead," midfielder Kevin De Bruyne added. "We can't be complacent. We need to do what we have all year. I prefer to be 11 points ahead than 11 points behind that's for sure."
It's not yet known if there will be any sanctions from a reported melee that took place in the tunnel after the match. According to The Times of London, City assistant coach Mikel Arteta was left bloodied and City players threw a carton of milk at United manager Jose Mourinho, who was upset at the loud celebrations going on in the City locker room to mark their victory.
Manchester City also learned their Champions League fate Monday when they were drawn into a round of 16 knockout tie with FC Basel. The Swiss side finished runners-up to Manchester United in Group A, and their 1-0 victory over Mourinho's side provided the spark to finish above CSKA Moscow and Benfica in the group.
"We have to respect FC Basel and we have to be careful," City director of football Txiki Begiristain said. "We showed against Napoli that we can do well home or away. We had to fight to qualify and to win the group and I think we've shown the character and personality needed to do well in the Champions League.
Swansea City, meanwhile, are looking for the character to simply remain in the top flight. The Swans (3-3-10) are second-bottom, one point ahead of Crystal Palace heading into the matchday, but also only four from 14th in the table as it seems likely the relegation battle this season will involve as many as seven sides.
Paul Clement's side arrested a seven-match winless spell (0-1-6) in league play with a 1-0 victory at home Saturday over West Bromwich Albion as Wilfried Bony's goal nine minutes from time proved decisive.
Bony, who had a failed run with City after the Sky Blues signed him for a £28 million transfer in the middle of the 2015-16 season, has scored in each of the last two matches as Swansea may be finally on the front foot.
"I asked Wilfried if he wanted a rest for this game and you can imagine the reaction I got," Clement joked to the team's official website ahead of this match. "He did so well when he was here at Swansea the first time around. He then went to Manchester City and didn't get to the level that he would have liked and it was the same at Stoke.
"Wilfried has a point to prove to lots of people."
The Ivorian's goal ended a 295-minute scoring drought at home for Swansea, who have claimed just seven points from their eight matches (2-1-5) at Liberty Stadium. They are the only side in the top five tiers of English football to fail to score at least 10 goals.
City have won three on the trot against Swansea in all competitions after a League Cup win and a double last season. Sergio Aguero, who went unused at Old Trafford, had a brace in the corresponding league fixture last season, a 3-1 victory. The Sky Blues are unbeaten in 11 - 9-2-0 against Swansea since a 1-0 defeat March 11, 2012, in the Welsh side's first season in the top flight.
Updated December 11, 2017