February 2021 Will Decide the Title Race for Manchester City

After a slow start to the 2020/21 English Premier League season, Manchester City currently sit at the top of the table. The Sky Blues have been on a remarkable run of form. Their victory against Liverpool at Anfield marked City’s fourteenth consecutive win in all competitions this season. City have not drawn since the start of December 2020, and they have also not lost a match since November 2020. The Sky Blues seem to be gaining momentum, as they have won their last 10 EPL matches since their 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion. Finally, they have kept eight clean sheets in their last 10 EPL matches.

Manchester City’s victory against Liverpool was the first time the Sky Blues have won at Anfield since 2003. The manner in which they won was also notable. City had less possession than the Reds, made fewer passes, and had fewer corners. Nonetheless, the visitors persevered and earned a crucial victory against their competitors.

The result means that Manchester City sit at the top of the EPL on 50 points, five points ahead of second-placed Manchester United. City also have a game in hand, meaning they could extend their run to eight points. While the Sky Blues seem likely to continue their spectacular run, they will go up against some outside factors and difficult opponents in February 2021. What will determine the outcome of these matches?

Coronavirus Pandemic

As English football presses on, the world endures the hardships of the coronavirus pandemic. Millions have lost their lives worldwide, and hundreds of millions have lost their jobs. Players and families of the EPL have also been affected, where several players were forced to quarantine because of the disease.

In City’s case, İlkay Gündoğan and Riyad Mahrez contracted the virus at the start of the 2020/21 EPL season, and they were forced to miss some of City’s earlier matches. Then, in December 2020, Manchester City had to postpone their match against Everton as several of City’s staff and senior players contracted the virus. Most notably, the 2019/20 EPL season was interrupted by the pandemic, where football was halted in mid-March 2020 and did not return until June 2020.

As new, deadlier strains of the virus begin to emerge, this could have a serious effect on the EPL. The league could be forced to take another hiatus. More important, several players’ lives and the health of their families could be at risk. The danger of these events are unprecedented.

Injuries

Throughout the 2020/21 season, Manchester City’s prolific striker Sergio Agüero has been out injured, and City struggled offensively in front of goal. Gabriel Jesus’ injuries and inconsistencies also affected the manner in which City played their games at the start of the season. Most recently, the Sky Blues lost Kevin De Bruyne and Nathan Aké to injury.

City were particularly affected by the absence of Aymeric Laporte during the 2019/20 season, where the Sky Blues were defensively poor. They conceded an uncharacteristic number of goals, and these relapses cost them several points last season. If City were to lose more of their players to injury, particularly on the defensive side of the pitch, this could see them drop points.

Fixture Congestion and Stiff Competition

Over the next four weeks, Manchester City will play seven matches in three competitions. City’s competition will also be difficult. In the FA Cup, Manchester City will face Swansea City, a team that gave them particular difficulty during the 2018/19 FA Cup season. Meanwhile, the UEFA Champions League will return, where Manchester City will have a difficult away match at Borussia Mönchengladbach in the competition’s Round of 16. Finally, in the EPL, City will play Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Arsenal, and West Ham.

Challenging Time

Overall, City will face a series of difficult tasks in February 2021. A variety of factors will determine the outcome of how they perform in February 2021. If they are able to overcome these challenges, City could be well on their way to win the 2020/21 EPL title.

How will City and their opponents fare during this crucial point of the 2020/21 EPL season?