With five weeks and six matches remaining, Manchester City, formerly the biggest joke in England and now the richest club in the world, have fourth spot in their own hands.
The injection of money from Abu Dhabi certainly shook up European football on September 1, 2008, and has subsequently rocketed transfer fees but Champions League football is the catalyst feared across the Continent.
Well before Liverpool’s trip to Birmingham yesterday, sources at Anfield insisted they were not too worried about a one-off drop in revenue from missing out on the Champions League but that they were scared that once City get in there, they will not be budged.
The likes of Kaka, Samuel Eto’o, John Terry and Ronaldinho have snubbed moves to Eastlands in the past but what if City can offer top European football, and enough cash to impress multi millionaires?
Remember this is the club that were relegated 14 years ago following a 2-2 draw with Liverpool, which saw them trying to keep the ball in the corners after a punter told manager Alan Ball that results elsewhere were going their way.
But closing this out would surely alter that long-held perception. Saturday was certainly a small step.
Burnley’s only away point of the season came when they were trailing 3-1 with 10 minutes to go at City and in the knowledge that Tottenham had already lost, this looked ripe for a ‘typical City’ mishap.
Not so, and they dispatched the Clarets with the kind of ruthlessness normally associated with their quiet neighbours across town.
Not that finishing the job will be easy. After next week’s game against Birmingham, they play Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Tottenham before facing West Ham on the final day.
Even that, however, is not scaring the Eastlands squad, who have lost just twice in eight matches against top-seven sides this season and have beaten Arsenal and Chelsea, as well as United in the Carling Cup, at Eastlands, where four of their final six games are to be played.
The Champions League could even be enough for Roberto Mancini, who has denied he is off to Juventus, to be in the job for next season.
Vincent Kompany, one of the five goal-scorers, feels that facing the best is what can drag City over the finishing line and keep Mancini in employment.
“The targets are very clear,” Kompany said. “We have to get fourth place. We all want it, the players want it, the manager wants it. The way we are playing at the moment, there is no reason to think that anything is going to change.
“You could say that the games we have to play are difficult but I say that they are perfect games. They are teams that are direct opponents. If you look at our results we’ve often performed best against the top teams. It feels close but the home games against Tottenham and Villa will decide it. We don’t want Liverpool to come too close so that game against Birmingham is one we need to win. Until we do that it’s still a long way off.”
Although he did not score, Adam Johnson, who set up three of the goals with corners, was perhaps the most impressive of City’s front four and after his shot was deflected on to the post he sent over a corner for Emmanuel Adebayor to head City in front before Craig Bellamy and Carlos Tevez made it a three-goal advantage with six minutes gone.
Patrick Vieira headed in and Adebayor broke away to make it five at half time before Kompany glanced in from Johnson’s corner and Steven Fletcher pulled one back for Burnley.
With just one win in 22 Premier League matches, Burnley could still give themselves a chance of survival at Hull next weekend but Brian Laws, who has lost 12 of his 14 matches in charge, feels it is unfair to focus solely on him.
“It’s not about who is in charge and whether they play for you or they don’t, they’re playing for their futures and their families, their work,” Laws said.
“It’s not about one person, whether you like them or you don’t like them, it’s about performing and performing for yourself.
“It’s about looking in the mirror and saying ‘I gave my all today and earned the right to pick up my wages week in, week out’. That’s all it’s about. They’re playing for themselves.”
City have scored 30 goals in their last seven meetings with Burnley, but they are the only Premier League side who have failed to win their home game against Burnley this season.
Match rating *** – Great for goals but as a contest it was a miss-match.
Referee: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire) 7 – Wiley didn’t have much to do, such was the one-way traffic, but he allowed the game to flow with not a single booking.