Manchester City missed out on a real chance to close down the gap with league leaders Chelsea to just two points when they drew at the Stamford Bridge this past weekend, and with just 15 games left till the winners are crowned in May, we take a look at where the draw has left City, and how they can chase down Chelsea.
Last season’s Champions had quite an experience in chasing down the title when they overhauled Manchester United’s eight point lead with only six games left to play back in 2011/12. They dominated Chelsea in their own backyard but failed to find the goal that would have brought them right back in the mix. They have fallen off pace in recent weeks having been level with Chelsea on points, goal difference as well as goal scored exactly a month back.
City will be hoping that their rivals lose are as blunt in attack in their next two fixtures away at Aston Villa and at home to Everton as they were against them. Chelsea recorded just three shots in total; the lowest they have recorded in a single Premier League game since Opta started keeping records. They missed the creativity of Cesc Fabregas, as well as the clinical finishing of Diego Costa who is sitting out with a three match ban. The former Arsenal midfielder won’t be out for too long, but Mourinho will have to ease him in carefully with a trip to Paris in the Champions League on the horizon.
Their procession towards the title has been haltered a bit. Just four wins from their last nine matches in all competitions shows that they aren’t the invincible force they were looking in the first few months of the season, and that they can be stopped from winning, although very tough to beat.
Injuries to John Obi Mikel and Filipe Luis doesn’t bode well to the squad depth, neither do the impending departures of Andre Schurrle and Mohamed Salah to Germany and Italy respectively. The loss in form of Gary Cahill dropped in favour of young Kurt Zouma and also Cesar Azpilicueta is also a nagging problem.
With a lack of rotation, Mourinho has put the core of his team in a risk of burning out of steam well before the end of the season, although that in itself has also been a major reason behind their lead at the top of the table ensured with some high quality football. The likes of Nathan Ake, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Andreas Christenson are highly rated youngster but have little to no experience on the bigger stage.
Away trips to London at West Ham and Arsenal present the only tricky fixtures on the road apart from the Hawthorns. Home games against Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton, Manchester United and Liverpool are on paper the only games where they could drop points.
City on the other hand have the best away record ahead of Chelsea with seven wins and four draws from their 12 matches away from the Etihad Stadium so far. They will have to carry that into a host of tough away games at the likes of Stoke, Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and finally Swansea on the penultimate match week of the season and grind out some important wins if they are to harbour any hopes of retaining the title.
They need Sergio Aguero to return to full fitness following his injury and also to his lethal best. He missed a great chance to give his side the lead in the first half, and his effort which was turned in by David Silva was going wide off the post.
They also have Yaya Toure returning back from the Africa Cup of nations this month, and that should be a big boost to their blunt midfield without him. Along with Toure, they will his compatriot Wilfried Bony featuring for the club for the very first time, and the burly striker is a proven goalscorer who City will hope can form a deadly combo with Aguero.
Chelsea remain the favourites with their five point gap and an easier fixture list on paper, but City have shown that they can hunt down leads as they did at the turn of the year, and as they did three years back when they won the league on goal difference in the fourth minute of stoppage time on the final day of the season.