Don’t Count Manchester City Out of Premier League Title Race Just Yet
By Nicholas Spiller
After Manchester City’s embarrassing 3-1 defeat to Southampton, the football pundits and even City manager Roberto Mancini have basically handed the Premier League title over to Manchester United. Mancini has spoken about the title race and said, “Now we have a 10 percent (chance) maybe.” It appears Manchester United will be reclaiming their championship and will have a comfortable run-in during the last few months of the season. Not so fast!
Isn’t this just a bit of a familiar situation to what enfolded at the end of last season? Remember when Manchester City lost 1-0 to Arsenal last April and was also seemingly finished after going 8 points adrift of United with just 6 matches left to play? Even when they closed the gap to 5 points after winning the following match, Mancini said, “It is finished. 5 points is too much.” But then City went on to win the title thanks to the memorable heroics of Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero in stoppage time of the final match against QPR.
Beyond just recent history, there are several other factors working in Manchester City’s favor heading into the final stage of the season. First, there are still 12 matches to be played this year, meaning a grand total of 36 points are possible. That is nearly an entire third of the Premier League season! It’s only mid-February! How quickly have our weak memories forgotten the most incredible end to a Premier League season that occurred last May?
Of course United do look quite imposing, and have been virtually unstoppable since acquiring Robin van Persie last summer, but fortunes can change awfully fast in this game. A few key injuries or a few unfortunate bounces and United could be in trouble, and City could well gain some ground on the leaders.
Additionally, since Manchester City was dumped completely out of European football, they have quite a relaxing schedule ahead with only league and FA Cup matches. Manchester United, on the other hand, is set to embrace an epic Champions League tie with Real Madrid. Should they do well in the competition, United may play up to six major midweek matches while City players rest up for the weekend league games.
Though their remaining Premier League schedules are pretty even as far as their opponents, one factor that could benefit City is that United’s schedule gets tricky in the last month of the season. After a vital Manchester derby in early April, United travels to Stoke City, a team known for physically challenging superior clubs. At the end of the month they must travel to Arsenal before hosting Chelsea the following week.
If Manchester City can gain some ground in the next few matches, win the Manchester Derby and close the gap to 5 points, they very well may find themselves with enough of a chance to win the title.
Clearly Manchester City needs to basically be flawless throughout the rest of the campaign, but given what a dramatic late-season comeback that occurred last year I simply cannot understand why people are suggesting that the title race is over, in February!
Although I do concede that Manchester United are currently in a quite favorable position, I do expect that the rest of the season could perhaps provide some twists and turns yet to the Premier League title race, and that if anyone is capable of defying the odds and stunning the league, it would be this Manchester City side.