Manchester City are now just one win and a draw away from securing qualification for next season´s Champions League after Sunday´s 2-1 victory over West Ham United at Eastlands. The win took the Blues seven points clear of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool and four points from the next two games – Everton away on Saturday and Tottenham at home the following Tuesday – will secure fourth spot and the coveted place in Europe´s premier competition next season.
The slightly edgy performance against the Hammers indicates there is still a feeling things are far from settled as far as this season goes, yet the fact both goals came from unlikely sources suggests the less prolific members of manager Roberto Mancini´s squad are starting to stand up and be counted as it gets down to the business end of the campaign.
Nigel de Jong finally opened his scoring account after 94 appearances in a sky blue shirt, a statistic that has had many City fans scratching their heads despite the Dutch international occupying a defensive midfield role that does not lend itself to many goalscoring opportunities. The 26-year-old last hit the back of the net in March 2008, and does not have a great track record when it comes to career goals, having notched just 12 in almost 300 appearances for Ajax, Hamburg, Manchester City and Holland.
Right-back Pablo Zabaleta – who was credited with the second goal despite Lars Jacobsen getting the final touch and diverting the ball into the roof of the net – has scored two more than de Jong in his professional career, and Vincent Kompany is now the only regular outfield player without a goal this season.
“I leave the goals to my teammates,” said the Belgian defender, “but I was happy to see Nigel score because he has been looking for that goal for such a long time. I know he can score because I played with him at Hamburg and he used to score there.” ?
Kompany added: “I had better start working on it now – I can score as well, so hopefully it won’t be too long before I get one myself.”
Nonetheless, both goalscoring heroes are facing a race to be fit for the Everton game. De Jong went off at half-time during the West Ham match with a hip injury and Zabaleta damaged an ankle late on, although the pair are expected to make it in time.
According to reports the Toffees themselves could be set to receive a player-plus-cash offer from City this summer for left-back Leighton Baines. The Eastlands outfit are ready to tempt Everton with £20m plus Wayne Bridge, currently on loan at West Ham, which would offer the Merseyside club a massive injection of cash as they plan for next season, plus a ready-made replacement for Baines.
However, the Citizens will need to see off Liverpool, Arsenal and Bayern Munich for the former Wigan Athletic man, who still has a further four years of his contract at Goodison Park to run.?