LONDON • Manchester City know they have all but secured a place in the Premier League's top four after Tuesday's 3-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion. It means they can only be caught by Arsenal if they lose at Watford on Sunday and also give up a five-goal swing in goal difference.
On an emotional night marked by Pablo Zabaleta's last home outing, the win means that if Pep Guardiola's side can win at Vicarage Road, they will claim third position ahead of Liverpool or Arsenal in the Spanish manager's first campaign, guaranteeing entry to the Champions League at the group stage.
"We are third so it is in our hands to finish third," said the Spaniard Guardiola. "We are going to play Watford and win the game."
Only defeat, coupled with a sizeable Arsenal win over Everton on Sunday, can send City down to fifth.
If Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's theory about mid-table teams in end-of-season mode is anything to go by, City will have few worries at Vicarage Road.
Watford, lying 16th, have lost their past five games, afflicted by a similar malaise to that which has overcome West Brom, who have taken just two points from their past eight matches.
Moreover, it was announced yesterday that Walter Mazzarri would leave his post as manager of Watford at the end of the season - the sixth manager in the last three years to be dismissed by the club's owners, the Pozzo family.
"I will not say fourth position is done, but Arsenal have to win by five or six against Everton and my good friend Ronald Koeman," Guardiola said.
"This club did not play in Europe for 30 years. Now we are there every year, but we have to try and be better next season."
Argentinian defender Zabaleta played his last home game for the club before leaving as a free agent.
Supported by his wife Christel and son Asier, Zabaleta was given an emotional farewell by team-mates and City supporters after the game, with all keen to show their appreciation for his nine eventful years as a City player.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE