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Man City eye a Champions League party after low-key Premier League title celebrations

2:00 PM EDT 5/12/21
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Pep Guardiola's side have claimed a third Premier League crown in four years, but their focus remains on ending the season with European glory

Manchester City will not let a little thing like a Premier League title party distract them from their attempt to win a first ever Champions League trophy.

Pep Guardiola’s players were back at their City Football Academy (CFA) training base on Wednesday morning, maintaining their sharpness less than 24 hours after being confirmed as English champions for a third time in four years.

City had been made wait for the coronation to be confirmed after losing to Chelsea on Saturday, but the inevitable was not going to be delayed for too long.

"We can start to think about putting [the champagne] in the fridge. Not yet, but we can put it in the fridge," Guardiola had said after the victory over Crystal Palace on May 1.

And when Manchester United were beaten 2-1 at home by Leicester City on Tuesday night, City were finally able to pop the corks and enjoy a well-earned beer together after a draining season.

While some fans headed to the Etihad Stadium, City's first-team players congregated across the road at the Etihad Campus shortly after the full-time whistle at Old Trafford to toast their success.

It was, however, far from the wild celebrations normally associated with such an occasion.

After their 2018 title win, a lavish private party was held close to the city centre, while a year later players and staff were flown back to Manchester to celebrate after retaining their trophy on the final day of the season with a victory away at Brighton.

This time, though, they could not afford any hangovers, with the squad back in for their routine Covid-19 tests on Wednesday morning, followed by a training session ahead of Friday night’s clash with Newcastle.

It may have been different had they secured the title on the pitch, with Guardiola having given his squad two days off following the Chelsea game in what is their first fixture-free midweek of the entire campaign.

But there was still was an opportunity to celebrate a difficult season, which the Catalan acknowledged has been his toughest since coming to the Premier League in 2016.

His City side were languishing in 12th in the table a third of the way through the season, but turned their form around to deservedly reclaim their crown as the best team in England.

“Of course we are team-mates but we are more than that, we are friends,” said midfielder Rodri, who is celebrating his first title success. “We almost live the same life as a second family.

“And we spend lots of times in the hotel, here in the CFA, playing games with good moments, bad moments and emotions in the middle.

“It’s a celebration of this success of the hard work. Everyone has taken part and responsibility for this.”

The coronavirus pandemic has made it a season like no other, with a hectic schedule meaning the majority of it was spent shuffling between Covid testing, training, matches and home life, with little opportunity for anything else.

But it has also brought a particular unity that means 2021 is different to other title successes.

"What happened this season, with Covid and the restrictions, we couldn't enjoy normal life, like everyone in the world, of course, but it makes it even more difficult," City director of football, Txiki Begiristain, said.

"To come back from last season's Champions League, no holidays, injuries, Covid - what this team has done has been incredible.

"The players, coach, football club, fans - there is a togetherness that makes us special." 

Coronavirus restrictions put a limitation on this season’s party, but so too did City's focus on winning the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.

Retaining match sharpness will be key, while those players on the periphery of Guardiola's squad will also be desperate for a chance to show their quality in the final three Premier League games of season, in a bid to force their way into the starting line-up to face Chelsea on May 29.

Successive away games against Newcastle and Brighton will be hard-fought, as will be  the final game of the season at home to Everton, when around 10,000 fans are expected at the Etihad Stadium.

It will be an emotional day for many, and will at least give the players an opportunity to celebrate with some of the supporters who have not been inside the ground for more than a year.

The inspirational Ruben Dias will play in front of home fans for the first time, while club legend Sergio Aguero will do so for the last, as he prepares to leave when his contract expires after the Champions League final.

“We will enjoy this moment and we hope the fans do too,” City captain Fernandinho said after the title was secured.

“Rest assured we will continue to do everything we can to bring the Champions League home this season.”

And it is that date that all at City are now focused on. The time for partying properly can wait.