Title Race Will Go to the Wire, but Manchester City Will Be Victorious

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Title Race Will Go to the Wire, but Manchester City Will Be Victorious
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After Manchester United swept to the title last season, eventually winning the league by a huge 11-point margin, this season's race looks likely to go down to the wire, with three sides still in the hunt.

Manchester City remain marginal favourites given their games in hand, but Liverpool, which have won their last eight league matches, and Chelsea, are still very much in contention, despite what Jose Mourinho thinks about his team's chances.

Chelsea's ability to win matches when not at their best appeared, at one stage, to be carrying them to the title, but some poor results in recent weeks, including defeats to Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, have hurt their title bid.

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Their involvement in the Champions League is also a distraction from their league campaign, something Liverpool and City will be hoping to capitalise on in the coming matches. They travel to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday before a tricky home match with Stoke on Saturday.

They now sit in second place, two points behind Liverpool and just two points ahead of City, which have two games in hand. Immediately after their defeat at Selhurst Park, Mourinho told Owen Phillips of BBC Sport:

Now it's impossible to win the title. We depend too much on other results. When you depend a little it's possible, when you depend a lot I don't think it is possible. Mathematically it is still possible but one thing is mathematics and another is reality.

Manuel Pellegrini and Brendan Rodgers certainly aren't gullible enough to believe his assertion that Chelsea are out of it, but it's clear that some of their recent results have made their task much more difficult than it should have been.

Liverpool are arguably in the most impressive form of the three. Their 4-0 win over Tottenham this weekend may have been aided by their opponents' willingness to roll over and commit tactical suicide, but the lack of nervousness from the home side was impressive.

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The attacking quartet of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling is fearsome and has contributed impressively to Liverpool's 88 league goals, the most in the division.

Rodgers deserves great credit for the job he has done at Anfield. He kept hold of Suarez when it looked likely he would leave, and he has helped turn Jordan Henderson into one of the most effective midfielders in the country after he had initially struggled to make an impact after his move from Sunderland in 2011.

Their expansive game has seen them dismantle sides with ease, with the flexibility in terms of Rodgers' tactics proving he is one of the finest coaches in the league.

They will welcome both City and Chelsea to Anfield in the closing weeks of the season in two matches that will go a long way in determining where the title ends up. City know a draw there keeps their destiny in their own hands, while Mourinho, ever the man for the big occasion, will be desperate to prove he is still the master tactician in the Premier League.

For City, the equation, on paper, is simple: Win all of their remaining games and they win the league. Their trip to Liverpool in two weeks time could hardly be bigger.

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The key for them will be bringing Sergio Aguero back into the fold as quickly as possible and hoping he can return to the level he was at before his injury at the end of January. He returned for a few games in March but was clearly not fit, culminating in a limp first-half display at the Nou Camp where he struggled to make any kind of impact.

With David Silva in the form of his life in the No. 10 role, and with Vincent Kompany also at his best, City's top players appear to be peaking at just the right time. Add a fully fit Aguero to the mix, and City are the strongest side in the league.

It's as tight a race as one could imagine. There'll be twists and turns between now and the end of the season, but those matches at Anfield look set to be vital.

 

Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_.

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