Men's Team

Ake: Premier League title race to be enjoyed

Manchester City have been here before in the Premier League title race.

Three seasons ago, Pep Guardiola’s men were locked in a battle for the championship with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, eventually pipping them on the final day with a memorable victory over Brighton and Hove Albion.

City can regain our one-point lead at the top of the table with another victory over the Seagulls on Wednesday and, with seven games of the campaign remaining, the title race looks set to go to the wire once again.

It means there is no margin for error and, with that, comes pressure.

That’s something Jack Grealish believes is a privilege and in team-mate Nathan Ake he has someone who also relishes the tense environment of the Premier League summit.

“I enjoy it, 100 per cent,” said Ake.

“The way Liverpool is playing at the moment and the way we are playing at the moment is just an enjoyment. I am happy to be a part of it and we just have to make sure we get trophies for it.

“Up until now it has been a very good season, but we haven’t got a trophy, so we have to make sure we finish the season well.”

City go into the Brighton clash looking to return to winning ways after a disappointing 3-2 defeat to Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

That game was the culmination of an intense four-match run, which saw Guardiola’s side face our title rivals twice, alongside both legs of our Champions League quarter-final with Atletico Madrid.

City emerged with one win, two draws and a defeat, but progressed to the last four in Europe and, crucially, kept our domestic fortunes in our own hands.

Ake admits the last week has been the most important of his career to date, and, whilst every game between now and the end of the season is of the utmost significance, he says a City side well-versed in success will have no issues ensuring they are mentally and physically prepared.

“I think overall it [the last week has been OK,” he reflected.

“Obviously, the last result we wanted to go through to the final and that is the only thing. It has been a very busy week travelling to Madrid, straight to London, tough games, but that is what we love to do.

“Yeah probably [it has been the biggest week of my career so far], also probably the weeks to come because they are going to be very important.

“I think it is quite simple [to be prepared] to be fair because you know every game is massive and you just have to focus on the same thing every day.

“Because the games are massive you do that automatically. We just go from game to game, day to day, knowing that you have to win every game.

“We have a group that know how to win things, so we know the next few weeks are going to be so vital and important. We are going to do everything to make sure we win it.”

Ake has recovered from an injury-disrupted debut campaign to make 17 starts in 23 appearances this season.

Guardiola lauded the defender’s character ahead of Brighton’s visit to the Etihad Stadium, highlighting his dedication to the cause, even during periods he has seen less playing time.

The 27-year-old has impressed on numerous occasions, making a crucial goalline clearance in a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Arsenal and, free of fitness concerns, he has no doubt he has made strides forward this season.

“Obviously the last game [against Liverpool] was massive,” he added when asked for the most importance moment of the campaign.

“You could just feel the tension from everywhere and obviously all the press around it as well, it was a massive game. That was very important to make sure that we didn’t go behind.

“We wanted to win obviously, but we showed that we are still 100 per cent in this race, but there has been so many defining moments.

“Obviously, the thing that stands out for me is the Arsenal game. I think it was a game of two halves from myself.

“In the first half it was not my best but in the second half I tried to change it and I did. I made a clearance off the line.

“I think this season has been much better than last season for me.”