Manchester City have edged closer to a place in the Champions League semi-finals but Jesus Navas has warned they can’t afford to relax when they return to Premier League action on Saturday.
City’s 2-2 draw at Paris St-Germain in the first leg of their quarter-final has made them favorites to progress to the last four following next Tuesday’s return meeting at Eastlands.
But before that, City face a visit from West Bromwich Albion as they look to make sure they are not reliant on winning the Champions League to guarantee playing in the competition again next season.
And City know they can’t afford any distractions as they look to secure a top-four finish – regardless of whether they go on to win Europe’s elite club competition for the first time.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side are currently in fourth place, but only one point ahead of Manchester United and three in front of West Ham.
Their 4-0 win at Bournemouth last Saturday was only their second victory in seven league games and, remarkably, the 2014 champions have not won a home league fixture since mid-January.
Mid-table West Brom, seemingly with little to play for, have never won at Eastlands and another win on Saturday would give City a double over the Midlanders for the fifth successive season.
But Spanish winger Navas is adamant City can take nothing for granted as they seek to avoid a slip-up four days before one of the biggest games in the club’s history.
“I’ve always said that this is the best league in the world. Any opponent can make life tough for you,” Navas said.
“Things are never easy against whoever you play, which is why every game you have to be totally at it, on your mettle and totally focused and concentrated.
“We’ve got some big games coming up and certainly some important league games. The next one is the one that we’re all focused on at the moment. We have got everything to play for.
“We want to be there in the top four and if we want to try and seal a place in the top four then we have to be consistent.”
– Talks planned –
City are likely to be without defenders Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi but Kompany could return from his latest calf injury for the return leg against PSG.
Having reached their pre-season target of 40 points with a draw at Sunderland last week, West Brom are looking to the future on and off the field.
Head coach Tony Pulis is already drawing up lists of transfer targets despite his own position at the Hawthorns being far from certain, with talks planned with chairman Jeremy Peace for the end of the season.
And the Welshman could offer encouragement to the club’s academy – a particular priority for Peace – by giving more youngsters Premier League chances now another season in the top-flight has effectively been confirmed.
He gave 16-year-old forward Jonathan Leko a first-team debut against Sunderland, while Wales youth striker Tyler Roberts is pushing hard for inclusion.
Both teenagers are rated by academy coaches as potentially better than Saido Berahino – the most successful product so far from the youth setup that was reshaped a decade ago.
And defender Jonny Evans has revealed that Pulis is trying new methods with all his players to get ahead of the game for next season.
“He’s trying things,” Evans said. “There was one or two things in the (Sunderland) game he wanted to try tactically from a defensive point of view – leaving a wide man further up the pitch and little things like that.
“He brought Leko on for his debut. I’m sure he’s looking ahead to next season and trying a few things out.”
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