Premier League: 5 Reasons Manchester City Can Still Win the Title
In the final third of last season, everybody wrote Manchester City off. Even Roberto Mancini had written Manchester City off.
However, the Citizens defied everybody's expectations—including their own—to overturn an eight-point gap behind Manchester United in their final six matches, winning the league in dramatic fashion.
Here are five reasons why they can leapfrog their neighbours for the second consecutive season.
They Know How to Overcome a Points Deficit
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After 25 games in 2011-12—the same stage we are at now—City were two points ahead of the Red Devils. However, with six games remaining, they trailed their Manchester neighbours by eight points after losing their firm grasp on the lead.
City would win all six of their remaining games, scoring 18 goals in the process. United, meanwhile, slipped off the throne and lost the title on goal difference after defeats at Wigan and Eastlands and a pivotal 4-4 draw at Goodison Park.
If City can overcome an eight-point gap with six games to go, they can certainly catch up nine points in 13 games.
Manchester United Have Three Competitions to Worry About
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City fans may still be smarting from their winless exit from the Champions League Group of Death—and subsequent lack of invitation to the Europa League—but their failure will surely be an asset in the domestic title race.
It could be argued that Man City lost their lead in the title race last season due to a crowded fixture list.
From mid-February, they played four Europa League matches in less than a month, with three league fixtures sandwiched in between.
Having crashed out of the Capital One Cup five months ago, all City must worry about now is a fifth-round FA Cup tie with Leeds in a few weeks and the 13 remaining league matches.
United, on the other hand, have an FA Cup match with Reading on their plate and the not-insignificant prospect of a pair of Champions League matches with Real Madrid.
A few days after the second leg, Sir Alex Ferguson's men must head to Upton Park, a stadium at which they have only won three times in their last seven attempts.
Manchester United have shown they know how to concurrently handle European and domestic campaigns, but City's lack of high-pressure European Cup fixtures can only be an advantage.
Manchester United Can Lose Three of Their Last 13 Games
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If Manchester City win their remaining 13 matches and Manchester United lose three of their remaining games, the title will probably be retained at Eastlands this season.
Fergie may feel confident of a strong finish in the run-in, as six of their remaining opponents are in the bottom half of the table.
Roberto Mancini, however, believes City could be "two or three points" behind their rivals by the time the Manchester derby rolls around on April 6 (The Guardian).
And he might be right.
In the six games before the derby, United face Everton (who are chasing Champions League qualification, beat United on the opening day of the season and arguably cost them the title last season), QPR (who recently held Man City at home, beat Chelsea and nearly cost them the title last season), Norwich (who beat United in November), West Ham (as previously mentioned, United have only won at Upton Park three times in the last seven attempts), Reading (who scored three against United in December) and Sunderland (well, they might win that one!).
Most of these games are potential stumbling blocks for United, and they may even gift City the three required losses before they meet in April.
Mancini Believes They May Only Need 11 Wins from 13
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Based on the reasoning that United will not win the rest of their games, Roberto Mancini feels that City will need at least 11 wins to stand a good chance of retaining the title.
Worryingly, in the last 13 games of last season, City dropped 10 points, with losses against Swansea and Arsenal and draws with Stoke and Sunderland.
However, they could quite conceivably win the rest of their league fixtures in this campaign. Seven of the remaining 13 games are against teams in the bottom half of the table—and four of those are among the bottom-five teams.
Six of the remaining games are against top-half opposition. Four of those six teams have already lost to City this season (Chelsea, West Brom, Tottenham and Swansea) and they drew with Everton. Manchester United are the only remaining top-half opponents to have beaten them, but Sir Alex will need little reminder of the scoreline the last time Mancini visited Old Trafford (hint: City won 6-1).
If City beat all their bottom-half opponents and mirror the corresponding fixtures from earlier in the season against the top-half teams, they will only drop four more points. This will give Mancini his 11 wins.
City Have Belief and Title-Winning Experience
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There are two things that Manchester City lacked at this stage last year—belief in themselves and experience of winning a Premier League campaign.
Now they have both.
They no longer view themselves as the moneyed impostor. Against the odds, they stopped Manchester United winning their 20th league title last season, and they believe they can do it again.