Jack Grealish is banishing the idea of winning the Premier League by beating his former club Aston Villa next Sunday. The £100million signing from the Midlands club is just one win away from his first title winner’s medal after sparking a comeback to 2-2 with a goal at West Ham that is likely to set up the Blues up for a simple equation on the last day – win and they are champions.
That will alter if Liverpool slip up at Southampton tomorrow night – a defeat would mean City take the crown without kicking a ball, while a draw would leave them needing only a draw themselves against the Villans on Sunday to be sure of their fourth title in five years. Sunday’s game is chock-full of narratives, with Steven Gerrard in charge of the visitors – his famous slip handed City the title initiative in 2014, meaning he left the club without ever winning the league, but could finally win them a title by pulling off a result with Villa.
And with his former Liverpool teammates Danny Ings and Philippe Coutinho in the Villa ranks, and Grealish potentially facing the club where he’s spent 20 years, the side-stories just keep on coming. But the England star says he is focussed on helping City win the game, and is refusing to entertain any thoughts of going up against former teammates, saying: “Of course, we are going to be confident.
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“We have got a great record at the Etihad this year and we have scored a lot of goals, so it is down to us. We have to just try and get the three points on the last day.
“It is not about me [versus Villa] or the opposition, it is about the team and the club. That is what I have got in my head. It is going to be a big day for this city and for this football club.
“Hopefully we can go and lift the trophy. All we can do is go out there and try to get three points so we can get our hands on the trophy. Of course, it will be a nice occasion for me, but it is about the team and we have a job to go out there and get three points. I am looking forward to it and I cannot wait.”
Grealish has taken criticism, much of it unfair, for a relatively marginal role in City’s season, with just six goals and four assists in his debut season. But his volley from him early in the second half at the London Stadium, which set City up for a fightback from two goals down to take a point, was a vital contribution.
Grealish revealed that the team’s poor defensive display, which handed Jarrod Bowen those two first half goals, did not provoke any wrath in Guardiola at half time. He said: “He was obviously positive with us as he always is and he gave us a good team talk.
“He just said we were dominating the game and dominating the ball, even though we were 2-0 down. It just shows the character that we have in the squad.
“We have got a lot of injuries, especially in defence, and we still came out in the second half and put in a great performance. Luckily, we got the two goals and we could have gone on to win it, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“I thought we actually played well. We dominated the game, dominated the ball. They had their fair share of chances and obviously scored two goals.
“We knew what they were going to do which was get the ball into (Michail) Antonio, have runners off him and try to play the ball in behind and that is what they are great at. West Ham is a tough place to come and they have beat great teams here this year. To get a point in the end, especially after the score at half-time, is a good point for us.”
That was despite Riyad Mahrez seeing his late penalty saved by Lukasz Fabianski, missing the chance to cap off the comeback in style. Said Grealish: “In the end, it is one of those games where you wish you had won it, but at half-time I think we would have taken a draw. It was nerve-wracking even though it was fun for the viewers!”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.