City's tough streak, Joe Hart heroics and Saturday's showdown all feature in our post-match analysis...
Tough to beat
City love to play the Beautiful Game, but a chilly Tuesday night at Sunderland was always going to require a battling performance and Manuel Pellegrini’s charges produced it. The best sides can play more than one way and although the Black Cats scrapped bravely, City’s defence stood up to the physical challenge and helped secure the points. It’s fair to say City haven’t always hit the dizzying heights they are capable of this season, but they are now tough to beat. Just one defeat in the last 11 games proves that. That should give the players and fans a mental advantage ahead of a tough title run in.
It was a good job City did win last night. Leicester and Tottenham – the Blues’ next two Premier League opponents – continued their fine form with impressive victories over Liverpool and Norwich respectively to keep things tight at the top. Everyone is waiting for Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes to tire but they continue to lead the chasing pack and are playing with great freedom. City have the chance to make a huge statement on Saturday. Winning the points is one aspect, but looking into the eyes of direct but unheralded title opponents and meeting their challenge could be a key moment in the championship race.
With six goals in his last four matches Sergio Aguero is a scoring sweet-spot. His finish against Sunderland was pure instinct, indicative of a striker completely at ease with his game. In this form you go into games expecting him to score. No doubt he will relish his personal duel with Jamie Vardy on Saturday – that was some strike by the Leicester man against Liverpool!
When people judge defences they often overlook goalkeepers. Joe Hart is part of City’s defence – the last line of course - and his performances this season underline his reputation as one of the best stoppers in the world. Hart is a major reason why City are tough to beat, and without his stunning save from Jermain Defoe, Aguero’s strike might only have earned a point.