As you know doubt know by now, Manchester City will be attempting to grab their first top flight title since 1968 when they take on Newcastle United at Sports Direct Arena on Saturday. Before the match, I had a chance to exchange some questions with the good folks over at Bitter and Blue, SBNation's resident Manchester City blog. Follow the jump for some wonderful insight from their gaffer, Danny Pugsley.
Keep Your Enemies Closer: A Q&A with Manchester City's "Bitter and Blue"
1. What are you feelings on sweeping the derby? Did the 6-1 romp feel better than the 1-0 thriller? Do you feel that you are now, unequivocally, the best team in Manchester?
A touch generous to call the 1-0 a 'thriller'! Contrasting games for sure but the feeling I had watching Monday's game was that once City got the goal it was a fairly comfortable second half for them. United offered little, if any, threat, but City were dominant without necessarily dominating the game as such. I wouldn't say unequivocally as the sides have been so close for virtually the whole of the season but I do think it is a fair statement to say City are now the better side in Manchester. Of course, whether that translates into a title win is still to be determined.
2. How would rate this season as a whole? Obviously, the start was phenomenal, but your mid to late season "collapse" definitely put your title hopes in peril. Can a second place finish still qualify as a great season?
The Premier League season has been phenomenal and s much as City stuttered it did coincide with a relentless period from United (34 points from 36 at one stage). A title win would make it a great season, second place would qualify it as a good one. The league - regardless of the outcome - has probably exceeded expectations but after the FA Cup win last season the knock-out competitions have been a disappointment with the early exits in the FA Cup and in Europe.
3. What are you anticipations for Champions League next year? Do you think ManCity is in a good position to challenge in Europe, or would you like to keep to focus on domestic competitions? Has the move closer to European glory diminished watersheds like last year's FA Cup?
The Champions League is obviously the next step in the clubs progression. I don't think the FA Cup win will ever be diminished given the wait the club had to win a trophy and it has provided the belief and platform for this season. Mancini was always going to get a pass on the Champions League this season given it was the club's debut appearance and there were certainly signs of naivety in their approach and play. I do think the squad is good enough (even without any summer additions) to have a deep run but the Champions League is still the question mark hanging over Mancini nd there will be now big expectations for 2012/13.
4. Do you think Manchester City needs to make any significant upgrades over the offseason to put themselves at an even higher level, or does the current talent simply need to produce more consistent results? Do you have faith in Mancini as the man to deliver those results?
I do have faith in Mancini and he deserves credit for putting the side in a position to take advantage of United's recent slip as following the Arsenal game it looked as though the side may be done for the season. I don't think the side needs significant upgrades but they have in some ays been lucky that their Premier League campaign has not been disrupted by Champions League involvement. This will likely change next season and Mancini will know he has to manage the balance between League and Cups better than this season.
5. What are your thoughts on the "character" issues of guys like Balotelli and Tevez? Do you think their talent justifies their behavior? How long do you anticipate the club "putting up" with their outbursts?
I think we all know that in whatever sport it is, 'character' players with immense talent will always be given licence by their clubs - rightly or wrongly. Both are very talented players and I guess the crucial part is for the coaching staff (and players themselves) to manage them. If they can then they can be absorbed into the squad and the good can outweigh the bad. If not, that is when you have problems and may have been the difference at City, as opposed to some of the problems Newcastle faced with Barton and Nolan?
6. Who has been your MVP this season? From afar, players like Toure and Hart have been otherworldly, but I'm sure as a supporter of the Citizens you may have a surprise pick.
This is a really difficult one and something I thought about plenty this week. You could make a genuine case for any of Hart, Kompany, Barry, Yaya Toure, Silva or Aguero, yet equally - and this may be testament to the level the squad has played at - none has been head and shoulders above the rest. My own view is despite a slowdown in February and March in terms of production I would still vote for Silva, marginally ahead of Aguero.
7. And finally, a prediction for Sunday?
There is a lot at stake for Newcastle and a win would put them in the driving seat for Champions League qualification but lost such a strong position in early April. I don't see City letting a second chance go. 3-1 City.
Bonus: How do you think the Top 6 of the table looks on the night of May 13th?
Hmm, City, United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle (sorry), Chelsea.