LONDON • A 3-0 victory over Southampton on Saturday lifted Manchester City to third in the Premier League and widened the buffer zone between them and Manchester United, who were sixth before their game against Chelsea yesterday.
But, according to City manager Pep Guardiola, United remain capable of gatecrashing the top four.
After Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, City host the Manchester derby, which their manager billed as "the real final".
"Until the last game at Watford, the qualification for the Champions League will be so tough," said Guardiola.
"Two teams (Chelsea and Tottenham) are already done and there are four top teams fighting for two positions.
"Thursday week (April 27), we play the real final against United. That's why it was so important to win (at Southampton) and for our confidence for the FA Cup."
Vincent Kompany, so luckless with injuries, broke the Saints' resistance 10 minutes after half-time, setting the stage for a City win that was embellished by late goals from Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero.
Failing to challenge for the league title or the Champions League might be grudgingly accepted in Guardiola's first campaign, but dropping out of the top four would be much harder to swallow.
"Our problem is that we have dropped a lot of points at home," said Guardiola.
"All we have to do is win our games and if we do that, we'll be in the Champions League next season, and that is so important for the club."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE