With an explosion of blue-and-white ticker tape, Manchester City’s Premier League title celebrations erupted.
That’s three league titles in a row, five out of six and who knows how many more for a team that keeps on reaching new heights?
“They’ve set a benchmark that has pulled them apart,” Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said after his team was beaten 1-0 by the newly crowned champions on Sunday. “I think they’re outstanding ... that’s why they are on for a possible treble.”
The first leg of that three-pronged trophy pursuit is complete, with the finals of the FA Cup and Champions League still to come.
The concern for Manchester United and Inter Milan in those respective finals is that this City team only appears to be getting stronger as the season nears a spectacular climax for Pep Guardiola.
“To be considered one of the greatest teams we have to win Europe, win the Champions League,” the City manager said.
Victory against Chelsea extended City’s unbeaten run to 24 games in all competitions. And even with Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and a host of star players named on the bench against Chelsea, a 12th straight win in the league was secured.
It was a run that proved too much for an Arsenal team that had led the way for much of the season, but buckled on the final stretch.
Nobody at City appears to be tiring of that winning feeling.
Certainly not Guardiola, who has now won 11 league titles in 14 seasons of management, spanning Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City.
Not the players either, who answered their coach’s challenge earlier in the season by proving they had not lost their edge and sang We Are The Champions in the locker room.
And not the supporters, who flooded the field after the final whistle at Etihad Stadium, letting off canisters of blue smoke and celebrating joyously as a period of unprecedented success for their beloved team goes on.
While this latest title – a seventh under the ownership of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family – was duly relished, the overriding feeling within the stadium was about what comes next.
One banner, carried onto the field by fans, read: “The treble is on” and Kyle Walker spoke of the team’s determination to “create history.”
In that sense, it would feel like an underwhelming end to the campaign if City failed to add to the league title.
That is a natural consequence of Guardiola’s dominance and why the pressure on him grows to finally conquer Europe with this team.
For City’s English rivals, however, the title remains a dream and Arsenal – like Liverpool in recent years – has learned the hard way just how painful it can be to go head-to-head with Guardiola.
In the end, Mikel Arteta’s side fell away all too easily, winning just two of its past eight games. But for much of the season, it felt as if Arsenal would hold on for a first title in 19 years.
It might not get a better chance to beat City than this year when Guardiola’s players struggled for consistency before going on a relentless march from February.
Even then, Arsenal led the table by eight points as recently as April 7, but still couldn’t hold off City’s charge.
“Arsenal brought us to our limits, otherwise [we] would not win these 12 games in a row,” Guardiola said. “We didn’t give up and they felt that we were there.”
It is possible to imagine City getting stronger next season, with 52-goal Haaland more settled in the team and the league. On Sunday it was all about City’s latest party, but Guardiola hopes the end of season celebrations have only just begun.
Leeds nears relegation
The Sam Allardyce experiment looks destined to fail after Leeds’s 3-1 loss at West Ham on Sunday pushed it to the brink of relegation. Leeds needs to win against Tottenham on the last day of the season and hope that other results go its way to avoid the drop. Rodrigo opened the scoring at London Stadium, but goals from Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen and Manuel Lanzini consigned Leeds to a latest defeat. Allardyce was tasked with the job of ensuring survival at the start of May, but has only picked up one point in his three games in charge.
Brighton into Europe
Roberto de Zerbi might be one of the most in-demand coaches around this summer – but he says he has his sights set on leading Brighton into Europe next season. “The club, the players, me, my staff, and the fans, they have to organize their passports to travel in Europe next year because we have to grow together,” he said after a 3-1 win against relegated Southampton on Sunday. Few could have predicted such a successful season for Brighton after manager Graham Potter left for Chelsea in September. But De Zerbi has taken the club to new levels after leading it to Europe for the first time in its history. That was secured against Southampton, with Evan Ferguson scoring twice in the first half to set up the win. Mohamed Elyounoussi pulled one back after the break, but Pascal Gross’s goal sealed a 3-1 victory. Brighton now cannot finish lower than seventh – in the Europa Conference League spot – though a sixth-place finish and a Europa League berth are all but mathematically guaranteed.
Chelsea closer to retaining women’s title
In the English Women’s Super League, Chelsea inched closer to a sixth title with a 2-0 win over Arsenal on Sunday. Guro Reiten and Magdalena Eriksson scored first-half goals as Chelsea moved to 55 points with one game left. Elsewhere, Manchester United beat Manchester City 2-1 to move into second place in the standing, with 53 points. Also it was Everton 2, Brighton & Hove Albion 1; Aston Villa 3, Liverpool 3; and West Ham United 2, Leicester City 1.
Barcelona women lose first league match in two years
Barcelona’s record two-year unbeaten run in Liga F was snapped on after a 2-1 defeat at Madrid CFF on the final day of the season. Racheal Kundananji scored twice in the first half for Madrid, while Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas netted for the league champions. The result ended Barca’s 64-match unbeaten streak dating back to July, 2021. The Catalans had chalked up a 62-match winning streak until they were held to a 1-1 draw by Sevilla earlier this month. Barcelona topped the standings with 85 points, 10 ahead of nearest rivals Real Madrid. Jonatan Giraldez’s side will now shift their focus to the Champions League final against VfL Wolfsburg Women on June 3.
The Associated Press with a report from Reuters