Premier League: 5 Reasons Manchester City Will Not Win Premiership Title
There is still a Manchester derby to be contested, and despite currently being in second place, City have an incredibly good chance of winning the Premier League for the first time.
They certainly have plenty to be cheery about. They have won their last 20 games at home (where they will play United later in the season), have a strike force to make just about any team in the world envious and have already beaten United away from home, 6-1.
With so much going for them, here are a few reasons why City should be a little cautious as the Premier League title race looks set to go down to the wire.
Lack of Experience
A lot has been made of Manchester City's lack of experience when it comes to Premier League title challenges, and rightly so.
There is no doubt that the pressure is greater when you haven't got a title under your belt, especially when your only real rivals are used to winning titles on an almost yearly basis.
The majority of Manchester City's players have never won a league title, let alone in one of Europe's biggest leagues, which means a lot of the players are in this position for the first time. A higher level of concentration is required than earlier in the season, when mistakes can be made up for.
Now, there is no time.
Sustaining the same level of performance for 38 league games is by no means easy, and in the final quarter of the season, a single slip could potentially cost a team the league title, especially with players feeling the effects of a long season.
Tottenham have already fallen by the wayside after looking like a good outside bet for a late title charge; they were unable to maintain the high standards required to win consistently. The North London club should serve as a warning to Manchester City, as well as Manchester United.
Manchester City like to win in style. They play some truly wonderful football and have shown that they can put even their closest rivals to the sword.
However, when it comes to the tough games—the ones in which every chance must be taken and nothing is clicking the way it should—City have struggled to come away with points.
Their recent defeat to Swansea City typifies this. Manchester City did not play particularly well and were unable to come away with even a point.
Grinding out results is an integral part of winning league titles; it cannot be a nine-month blaze of glory. There will be ups and downs and both the players and the manager must be tough enough to find a way to win at all costs.
This is a quality Manchester United seem to possess. The current United side has been derided as one of the worst Sir Alex Ferguson has fielded in the Premier League era, yet they have kept pace with City all season and are now a point ahead.
They have not played stylishly, or particularly well, but they have gotten the job done and picked up points and wins even on days when things looked pretty bleak.
City need to start doing the same if they are to get their noses out in front once again.
Harder Run of Games
Here is a list of Manchester United and Manchester City's final nine games, courtesy of BBC Sport:
2 Apr/31 Mar
West Brom (h)
Aston Villa (h)
Man City (a)
Man Utd (h)
The crunch fixture of the run-in could well prove to be on April 30th, when City and United meet. But of the other eight games, City have the harder run of matches.
Stoke are a tough side who are always hard to break down. Sunderland have been flying since Martin O'Neill took over, and they have already beaten City once this season. Arsenal, meanwhile, are third in the league and have managed to turn what looked set to be a disastrous year into a likely Champions League finish.
Add in City's plethora of ex-Arsenal players, and the Emirates could be an intimidating venue.
Newcastle away is another tough game, with the Toon looking to guarantee Europa League football next season with a fifth-place finish in the league, while even QPR at home on the final day of the season could be a difficult encounter, with the London side potentially needing a win to stay up.
United do not have an easy run-in; games against Swansea, Sunderland and Everton will be difficult.
However, if a surprise is to be sprung on one of the top two, it seems more likely that it will be City who will have the accident.
At a glance, things are looking rosy for City at this point. City won, and Tevez's return went well; not only did he provide an assist, but he caused no trouble and was not hounded by the fans.
However, Tevez's return could prove to be City's downfall. The Argentinian is a fantastic player, but his presence could prove to be divisive, both for fans and the players.
City are right to use Tevez; they need to use as many of their best players as they can if they are to see off Manchester United. However, there are bound to be players, maybe even coaches, who are not ready to put aside personal grudges for the good of the squad. That is just human nature.
The last thing City need right now is a training ground bust-up. That is exactly the type of needless incident that could destroy morale and derail a title bid.
Sir Alex Ferguson suggested that Tevez's return reeks of desperation on the part of City. While that is taking it too far, it could prove to be a useful psychological card in United's arsenal. Does Roberto Mancini think his squad isn't good enough to get the job done without Tevez?
For all of the good he might do on the pitch, Tevez is perfectly capable of doing far more damage behind the scenes, regardless of whether or not he is sincerely sorry and looking for a fresh start.
Vincent Kompany picked up an injury against Sporting Lisbon, and things have been less than perfect at the back since then. Stefan Savic continues to look less than adequate at centre-back, and the absence of Joleen Lescott has only made matters worse.
Kolo Toure does not seem to be back to his pre-ban best by any means, and unless the two first-choice centre-backs return soon, which is far from certain, Manchester City could be in for some real problems.
Kompany could return against Stoke, although Mancini's statement that Kompany "has some chance" of being fit is less than promising for City fans. Similarly, Lescott looks set to miss out, with Mancini claiming that the England international will probably not play against Stoke.
It is not a coincidence that City have fallen behind Manchester United since Kompany and Lescott suffered injuries. There is a danger that the pair will not return until it is too late for City to control their own destiny; a loss against Stoke would put City four points behind United.
Even if they do return, the lack of top-quality cover at the heart of their defence could prove to be problematic for City. Any further injuries in the position could be disastrous.