Brentford 0-1 Manchester City. Phil Foden returns from suspension to win.

Back into the light after the bad step It’s true that Phil Foden’s late-night outing taxed Pep Guardiola’s patience, but goals in tight situations have a way of calming friction burn.

It was a forgettable strike. No. I enjoyed the controlled volleys from close range that appear easier than they are. Also vital. It’s vital for him and City.

To their surprise, they had begun to feel a pinch. Pressure from Brentford forced Ederson into one fine save and Joao Cancelo into another off his own line in quick succession.

From exile alongside Jack Grealish following a nightclub excursion before Christmas, Foden delivered a neat and clean storey in the 16th minute. As a result of their recent mistakes, one of them had to start the last two games.

It was more surprising that it was so vital and so obvious. When City slide past opponents by the odd goal rather than robbing them down to their undies, it is almost disconcerting to watch.

In the end, there’s satisfaction in fight. Brentford remained a threat after the goal. They earned the subdued distinction that comes when City are denied from amassing ridiculous numbers.

In that regard, their previous nine victories were won by a combined 30 goals to six; their tenth victory was less flashy but no less significant.

They gained eight points on Chelsea and nine on Liverpool, who still have a game in hand.

Close the chasm? It’s unmissable. And with both of City’s top opponents dropping points since Christmas, it’s becoming increasingly tough. City manages to stay in the pure air even as the virus is spreading and they lose their edge.

Guardiola, for his part, is adamant that nothing is set in stone. That’s 54 points left to play for! Let’s hope he’s correct for the neutral. However, such disclaimers are unlikely to last long.

Consider the team selections below to get a feel of what the division’s lesser lights will face. To make matters worse, the Bees were without 11 first-team regulars. Thomas Frank was skeletal.

Sterling and Riyad Mahrez might be rested for City. Nathan Ake and Gabriel Jesus, as well as Grealish and Foden, returned from incarceration, replaced Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ilkay Gundogan as starters.

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