AS Hull City today prepare to take on a side their manager has labelled “as good as any in the world”, Steve Bruce has repeated his belief that two more wins will be enough to guarantee Premier League survival.
The Tigers will host Manchester City in the lunchtime kick-off fresh from having booked a place in the FA Cup semi-finals against Sheffield United.
Before the first all-Yorkshire semi-final in a generation, however, Hull have five Premier League games and Bruce is targeting safety ahead of that Wembley date on April 13.
He said: “We have to be happy with where we are in terms of our season. I can’t imagine us having been in a better position in terms of where we are in the league and where we are in the Cup.
“The vital part now, though, is upon us. After the Manchester City game we are into single figures in terms of games left. My opinion is that we have two games to win in the Premier League.
“If we do that, people around us have to win four or probably five out of their own nine games. That is a tall order and probably not possible. So, while we have had the pats on the back, now we must see it through.
“Ideally, we get those two wins before we are next involved in the Cup. That means we could enjoy the semi-final.”
Manchester City make their third trip to the KC Stadium today on the back of a disappointing week that has brought exits from both the FA Cup and the Champions League.
Chelsea have also opened up a nine-point lead on Manuel Pellegrini’s men, albeit with the London club having played three more games.
A first victory at the KC, therefore, is paramount for the title-chasers, as Bruce is readily aware.
He said: “It is fantastic that we can say a team like Manchester City are coming to town. They have some fantastic players.
“City maybe haven’t got the history of great clubs (like Barcelona and Bayern Munich), so that will take time. But when you see them play and you match them up, then absolutely they are as good as any side in the world.
“Look at some of the talent they have. (Yaya) Toure, he is arguably the most outstanding midfield player at the moment in world football. He is a terrific player.
“Right the way through their team with (David) Silva, (Alvaro) Negredo, (Vincent) Kompany, there are great players everywhere you look.
“A week ago, people were talking about them winning all four trophies. Two months ago, they were unbeatable.
“Obviously it has been a difficult week for them, but I am sure they will come out fighting. There will be a backlash with the players that they have.
“With the league still to play for, the one thing they will want to do is turn us over. We will have to be at our best.”
Asked if City were the favourites in the title race, Bruce added: “I think I would rather have the points on the board, if I am honest.
“The tickly bit of the season is just about to start and it is who handles the run-in.
“Manchester City haven’t got the distractions of the cups, so who knows? It might work for them. But they are going to be there or thereabouts.”
As for Hull, they are keen to bounce back from the disappointment of their last league outing when Newcastle United triumphed 4-1 at the KC a fortnight ago.
The afternoon will forever be remembered most for Alan Pardew’s head-butt on David Meyler, which this week saw the Magpies’ manager handed a seven-game ban.
Bruce yesterday revealed that he has had a letter of apology from Pardew and considers the matter closed. He is also, however, at pains to stress that his side must improve markedly on that display against Newcastle.
He said: “It was a bit like last weekend when Sunderland gifted us our goals. We did the same for Newcastle the week before. But we are confident.
“We couldn’t have played any better at the Etihad (in losing 2-0 to City back in August), but it wasn’t good enough. You accept that and say, ‘Okay, we were beaten with our boots on’. Let’s hope we get them on an off day.”
Football previews: Pages 2-5.