Hull City Fan View: Manchester City defeat must not crush spirits

Gregory Whitaker

Despite, what must be described as, a fairly comprehensive defeat away to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on Saturday afternoon, Marco Silva, the squad, and, most importantly, the Tigers’ fans must not be too disheartened after what has been a good week overall for the club.

After collecting six points from our last three games, and taking another vital step closer to the end of the season outside of the relegation zone, I for one am feeling more confident than ever that a famous ‘great escape’ can now be pulled off by Silva and Co.

After what felt like a potentially season defining 4-2 win at home to Middlesbrough on Wednesday evening, Marco Silva was forced to change his starting XI at the Etihad, replacing the injured Harry Maguire for the returning Michael Dawson in the heart of defence, and giving Evando his first start since coming back from injury ahead of Abel Hernandez. While this saw City’s successful 4-4-2 formation replaced with a more defensive 4-5-1 shape, you can forgive Silva for attempting a nullify Manchester City’s frightening front three of Sane, Aguero and Sterling.

In a similar fashion to City’s home fixture against Guardiola’s men back in December, for much of the game the Tigers looked to be matching the top-four side – giving as much going forward as the home side was for much of the game. However, as was also the case on Boxing Day, the Citizens’ ability to step up the gears when needed and produce moments of real world class quality shone through once again, with the unplayable Sterling in particular being the real difference between the two sides today.

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While the result, and in some ways the performance, were still disappointing despite expectations being low prior to the game, City fans must have been satisfied with the results of teams in and around us today – most importantly, of course, Swansea losing 1-0 against West Ham at the London Stadium. While this result does pull the Hammers further away from the drop zone, arresting their woeful recent run of results, keeping Swansea in the relegation zone, two points behind the Tigers, was certainly the result the City faithful wanted to see. While it is looking increasingly as though Middlesbrough and Sunderland may already be too far behind to now avoid the drop, seeing Boro dropping points at home to Burnley today also lessens the emphasis on the Tigers’ defeat at the Etihad, while both bottom of the table Sunderland, and Crystal Palace who are currently just one point above City, didn’t play today.

Of course, with six Premier League fixtures still to go, anything can still happen. However, it is looking increasing likely that, as I have mentioned, Sunderland and Middlesbrough will be the first teams relegated, while Swansea and Hull City fight to stay out of the last remaining relegation place.

The Swans still have to play Watford, Stoke, Manchester United, Everton, Sunderland and West Brom, while Marco Silva’s men face Stoke, Watford, Southampton, Sunderland, Palace and Spurs. Looking at the two run-ins, it is remarkably difficult to decipher who has the easier set of games. Both play bottom of the table Sunderland, as well as a collection of mid-table sides, and one or two of the League’s bigger clubs through in there for good measure.

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However, what should give Hull City fans confidence is, as well as going into the final straight of Premier League fixtures outside of the relegation zone, City play Watford and Sunderland in their next two home games. With both City and Silva’s current home records being so impressive of late, two wins in these games would give Hull City 36 points.

Traditionally, the points’ tally needed to avoid Premier League relegation is between 38-40 points. If City could win these two home fixtures, I think only four points would be needed in games against Stoke at the Bet365 next weekend, Southampton at the end of April, and Spurs at the KCOM on the final day to cement City’s Premier League status. While this, of course, is a huge ask, I do honestly believe our current form illustrates we are more likely to reach the magic 40 point mark than our relegation rivals, Swansea.

As I said in this blog last week, being outside the relegation positions at this stage in the season is a huge mental boost and this, combined with a fairly kind selection of final fixtures, really does place Hull City’s Premier League fate in their own hands.  Despite a 3-1 loss today, City are in their best Premier League position since October, and for the first time since August we really look as though we can stay up this season. Let’s stay positive and really get behind the team for the final push!

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