Manchester City Must Win FA Cup Because Premier League Chase Looks to Be Ending

Phil KeidelContributor IIMarch 7, 2014

Some mistakes you never stop paying for.
Some mistakes you never stop paying for.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Manchester City's gritty proficiency in the Capital One Cup and FA Cup tournaments did not cost them their best chance to win the Premier League.

It didn't help much, either.

By the time the Sky Blues take the pitch against Wigan Athletic for an FA Cup quarter-final, Manchester City could be nine points back of Chelsea in the Premier League table.

"So what," Manchester City fans and masters of easy math might retort. "We have three games in hand against Chelsea and a huge lead in goal difference."

Well, that much is true. If Manchester City win their postponed matches with Sunderland and Aston Villa and then win out, they will almost surely win the league.

But look at the gauntlet of villains Manchester City will have to navigate to make that happen.

Manchester City still must play at Manchester United, at Arsenal, at Liverpool and at Everton. That's four of the league's top seven teams on the road, the first of which happens to be a derby.

Meanwhile, Chelsea's remaining schedule is softer and sweeter than a first kiss in a cupcake factory.

Jose Mourinho's side must still face Liverpool at Anfield, but beyond that the Blues have only two other league matches remaining against clubs in the top half of the league table—at home to both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

The rest of Chelsea's schedule will go as far toward deciding which clubs get relegated as it will toward crowning Chelsea as league champions.

Given the easy schedule Chelsea have left in the league, Mourinho is unlikely to let Pellegrini catch him.
Given the easy schedule Chelsea have left in the league, Mourinho is unlikely to let Pellegrini catch him.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Cardiff City, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Swansea City (all of them either in the drop zone or too close for real safety) remain on Chelsea's slate.

So while Manchester City control their own destiny now, the bitter truth is that Chelsea are far more likely to win out than Manchester City are. Of course, neither team has much chance of running the table.

Chelsea doesn't really need to run the table, though. They just need to keep roughing up bad teams and winning all of their home matches, like they have more or less done all season. If Mourinho's men do that, they'll amass so many points that Manchester City are apt to run out of chances to narrow the gap.

With all of this in mind, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini must place what would under different circumstances be undue emphasis on winning the FA Cup.

The Sky Blues need only dispatch Wigan to ensure that, at worst, they would face only one more top-tier Premier League side in either the FA Cup semi-final or the final. Arsenal and Everton are the last two powerful opponents left in the draw, and they face each other in the quarter-final.

And if Manchester City beat Wigan and the semi-final draw favors them, they could be looking at playing the winner of the Sheffield United/Charlton Athletic quarter-final match next. Not that they would be terrified to face Hull City or Sunderland in the semis, either.

The bottom line is that Manchester City are probably going to be favored in every match they will play for the remainder of the FA Cup tournament.

Which is a good thing, since per they are no longer the touts' choice to win the Premier League.

Chelsea are.

Could Manchester City shake up the world and somehow hunt down Chelsea to win the league? Sure they could.

That is going to take a lot of help from a lot of pretty bad league sides to happen, though.

Manchester City would be better served spilling their proverbial bucket to win the FA Cup, because Chelsea are probably not coming back to them in the league this season.