Manchester City may have an FA Cup semi-final and Champions League mini-tournament still to look forward to this season, but the biggest result of their campaign will be delivered at 9:30am BST (4:30am ET) on Monday morning.
A second 5-0 victory in four days, away to Brighton on Saturday, rubber-stamped a second-placed finish for Pep Guardiola’s side in Premier League, and as such a spot in the Champions League qualifying positions for a ninth consecutive season.
But now all eyes are on the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for their judgement over whether City will be allowed to play in Europe next season .
City were banned from continental competition for the next two years by UEFA back in February after committing “serious breaches” of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations between 2012 and 2016.
The club appealed the decision and say they expect it to be overturned because of “irrefutable evidence that the claims are not true” when the judgment is announced.
Whatever CAS decides, the implications will be huge.
UEFA’s FFP rules could be left in tatters should City’s ban be overturned. On the other hand, City’s image could be further tarnished and their short-term future seriously impeded if it is upheld.City’s stars have remained committed to the club throughout the appeal process, but European giants will be eyeing up some of their biggest assets if they were to be excluded from Champions League football.
With a positive outcome, Guardiola can go shopping for his first choices using the lure of joining a squad that will be considered among the early favourites for next season’s Champions League. A negative decision for City and his ‘most wanted’ may take a little more persuading.
Guardiola, himself, remains confident having seen the evidence that the club presented to CAS, and says his players deserve their place in Europe for the way they have performed. “Today we achieved one incredible challenge, that’s qualification for the Champions League next season,” he following the Brighton win. “That is the minimum challenge for the top-five or where the top-seven want to be. We deserve to be there because we won it on the pitch.
“Hopefully on Monday, UEFA will allow us to play where this team and these players deserve to be.”
The Catalan has an unerring eye for detail when it comes to preparing his sides. His bosses in the boardroom remain confident they match his precision off the pitch.