Manchester: Pep Guardiola’s startling suggestion that drawing 1-1 at home to Liverpool was one of the most special days of his life could partly be explained by a sense of relief.
Managers hate going into a two-week international break on the back of a defeat, which in the Spaniard’s case would have been the first time any team under him had lost six times in a league season.
Sergio Aguero’s equaliser to James Milner’s penalty meant City avoided that fate on Sunday.
Losing would also have dropped them into fourth place below Liverpool, leading to a difficult build up to two critical games when the Premier League action resumes in April.
In the space of four days City have to play away to sixth-placed Arsenal (April 2) and runaway leaders Chelsea (April 5).
After that they still have to find a date to host the Manchester derby against United, postponed last month because of the League Cup final.
“After our defeat in the Champions League (on Wednesday), for two days we were so, so sad and in the training sessions we didn’t talk too much,” Guardiola said.
Hence his delight at not following Wednesday’s loss to Monaco with another one, this time on their own ground.
“You cannot imagine. It is one of the happiest days of my career as a manager. I am so proud,” said the Spaniard, who won 21 trophies while in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Liverpool also face one of their biggest games of the season at the start of next month, the Merseyside derby at home to Everton, and will be equally relieved not to have gone into the break brooding on a defeat.
Chelsea may be champions-elect but with second-placed Tottenham on a good run and Manchester United expecting to have players available again after injury and suspension, the pressure is building up among the contenders for the other Champions League places.
Arsenal suddenly look the most vulnerable of them following four defeats in five league games.