Since last August, Manchester City has been playing catch up with Manchester United.
Starting with their failure to capture Robin van Persie during the Dutchman's transfer saga, the Citizens have remained behind United.
After losing this weekend to Southampton, Man City are down by 12 points in the league with just 12 matches remaining.
Before this past weekend's matches commenced, Man City manager Roberto Mancini remarked,
"They [United] have nine points more than us because they did better than us. But in three months, everything can change like last year. If we can recover eight points in six games, I think to recover nine points in 13 games will be easy."
With the Champions League returning this upcoming week, squads across Europe will be taxed with a more strenuous workload.
Mancini used this analogy in the continuation of his comment,
"It is normal when you play in the Champions League against Real Madrid, you can lose your strength in this game. We support Manchester United to go through in the Champions League."
Mancini's thoughts are understandable considering many sides will struggle with an increased workload of both European and domestic league fixtures.
Unfortunately for Mancini, Man United are an exception to this perception that an increased list of fixtures causes clubs to struggle.
Since the 2006-2007 season, Manchester United have won the Premier League in each of the four times that they went to at least the Champions League semifinal.
In the two years when United failed to reach the semifinal, they lost the league to Chelsea in 2010 and last year to Man City.
This premonition that the Red Devils will struggle to win the league if they have to play in extra Champions League matches is incorrect.
It is further magnified by City's poor play in this campaign. Even if the Citizens were on pace to record the same points as they had last year, they would still fail to capture the league.
Man United have led the table three times at the start of the Champions League knockout stage since Feb 2007. In each case, they went on to win the league.
The only time the Red Devils failed to do so was in 2008 when they were five points behind Arsenal at this period in the campaign.
Meanwhile, in the only time where United were still in the Champions League at this time in the season and went on to lose the league was in 2010. This was the year after the Red Devils lost Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer transfer window.
Mancini is right that the Red Devils could drop points, allowing City back in the title race discussion. However, it is highly unlikely it will happen considering United's recent history.
Man United have twice lost leads in the table when they reached the Champions League knockout stage during this six-year stretch.
The first instance was in 2009, when the Red Devils squandered a seven-point lead to Liverpool during that March.
United turned this particular campaign around thanks to a late Federico Macheda winner, which ended the swoon that the Red Devil's were stuck in.
The other instance was in 2010, where they held a one-point lead to Chelsea that evaporated after a 2-1 home loss to the Blues.
When evaluating the last collapse by United at the ending of last season, it happened due to a lack of oversight from both the players and manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Even so, City only won the league last year on goal differential.
This failure from the previous campaign would be enough to keep the Red Devils alert enough to maintain their 12-point lead.
Even more, Manchester City's failures, evident in their latest loss to Southampton, have pushed them deeper into second place in the league.
Contemporary history tells us that if United are eliminated from the Champions League by Real Madrid, they are more susceptible to conceding their league race.
But with Madrid in a recent funk in form and without star keeper Iker Casillas for the duration of this tie, they will probably concede this tie to United.
This will further aide the Red Devils and will solidify the winning mentality for the final three months of the season.
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