Off the Mark: Why Manchester City could be four days away from becoming champions
Even the most one-sided Premier League title races were never won in December, but each and every winning team will always be able to point to the month as a key one.
Fixtures come thick and fast and there is no international break or FA Cup weekend to get in the way, and as such the momentum that you pick up now can prove to be crucial later on in the season.
But for Manchester City – who are 13/8 to win the title with Coral – it isn’t so much the next month that will be important, but more the next four days.
A real Jekyll and Hyde team, City’s home league record of played seven, won seven, scored 29 is in stark contrast to form on the road which features four defeats and just four points.
Losses at Cardiff, Aston Villa, Chelsea and Sunderland are what leaves Manuel Pellegrini’s side six points off the top of the table going into these midweek round of fixtures, but the next four days would appear to offer City the perfect chance to get their away hoodoo over with.
The 3-0 weekend win over Swansea was a fifth success in the last six games in all competitions for Pellegrini’s side, with all of those wins coming at home and featuring a grand total of 25 City goals. Now though, they head for the relative discomfort of The Hawthorns and St Mary’s.
Tonight’s fixture at West Bromwich Albion would appear to be the perfect test of City’s resolve, so much so that it might not be too over the top to bill it as one of the most important matches of the season so far.
Win it, and the Blues will have a spring in their step heading into Saturday’s meeting with Southampton, another huge test and one that passing will create elevated levels of confidence that Pellegrini’s men might not ever come down from.
If they can pick up six points out of six over these next four days then it is not difficult to imagine City never looking back, and springing into their next fixtures with the swagger of potential champions. And following hot on the heels of those West Brom and Southampton games is the small matter of the visit of table-topping Arsenal to the Etihad Stadium.
The prospect of shooting down the Gunners will already have excited Pellegrini’s players, but if those players can come through this week with a couple of wins then they’ll enter that game in even higher spirits.
For Arsenal – who face home matches with Hull and Everton over this period that City will be on the road – the sight of a revved up and fully-charged Manchester City in their rear view mirror is sure to see the nerves kick in, and they more than anybody will have one eye on events at The Hawthorns and St Mary’s over the next few days.
Neither are easy fixtures of course – West Brom drew at home to Arsenal and won at Old Trafford this season, whilst Southampton’s quality has been there for all to see throughout the campaign, and they stuck a knife into City’s title ambitions with a 3-1 home win over them last February – but there is little doubt that a team with the quality Pellegrini has at his disposal can collect maximum points.
With Sergio Aguero as dangerous as ever, Alvaro Negredo looking as though he was born to score goals in England, Jesus Navas having got over a difficult opening few months, Samir Nasri repeating the form that made him such a hit at Arsenal and Yaya Toure still a dominant force, City have plenty to be proud of this season.
But the fact remains that all of their best moments have come in Manchester.
If that can change over the next four days, then we could be looking at the 2013/14 Premier League champions.
City 1 Tigers 0
A month isn’t allowed to pass by without someone in a position of power at a football club doing something which makes the rest of us wonder if they actually understand the game at all.
Assem Allam, the Hull CITY owner, is the latest to take the prize after he slammed the club’s fans for their protest over Hull CITY’s potential rebranding.
Those Hull CITY fans were as terrific as their team Hull CITY were in their deserved 3-1 victory over Liverpool, and seeing as those Hull CITY supporters will still be there whatever happens to the club in the future – whether they are beating Liverpool or Lincoln – then they should be the ones consulted on any potential name change, not that there’s anything wrong with Hull CITY in the first place.
Backing the Mackems
Sunderland have only picked up one point and haven’t even scored a goal on the road under Gus Poyet, but at home it’s been a different matter.
A win in the derby against Newcastle and against Manchester City set them up nicely for a tough home double header against Chelsea and then Tottenham, and although the Blues might prove to be too strong they could heap the pressure on Andre Villas-Boas with a win on Saturday.