Manchester City’s 3-1 defeat to Southampton at St Mary’s on Saturday now leaves them 12 points behind league leaders Manchester United with little hope of catching up.
Roberto Mancini’s side are now out of the title race all but mathematically and with Chelsea and Tottenham breathing down their necks just 4 and 5 points behind them, respectively, City are now in danger of falling out of the top four all together.
After the heights of last season in which they won the Premier League title, Mancini’s men have now bowed out of the Champion’s League, the Capital One Cup, and realistically are only chasing the FA Cup this season.
I have a sneaking suspicion that last weekend’s dismal display at St Mary’s was a reflection of a jaded and disillusioned team whose hopes of repeating last season’s glories and ambitions of improving on that have evaporated since their draws with Liverpool and Queen’s Park Rangers.
City now head into 2 tough fixtures – one against Leeds United in the FA Cup fifth round, followed by a visit from Chelsea at the Etihad. Mancini will be hoping for a reaction from his star-studded team and I believe he will get one against Leeds.
However, should City fail to win for a fourth consecutive league game against the Blues, they could find themselves in much deeper trouble. If Chelsea beat them at home next weekend, Rafael Benitez’ side would be just one point behind Mancini’s.
The battle for top four football has mostly been fought this season beneath City who until January were still very much in the title race with United. Tottenham are now on an unbeaten run of 10 games and Arsenal 4 points behind them in 5th.
It would have been inconceivable before Christmas to suggest that Manchester City wouldn’t make the top four but now, after 3 poor performances over which they dropped 7 points, the suggestion isn’t quite so ridiculous.
City desperately need to respond against Leeds to give them some hope of silverware this term but, more importantly, they need to beat Chelsea to put some more points between themselves and their rivals for next year’s Champions League places.
That’s the reality of City’s current predicament – they are no longer chasing the title, they are instead defending their top four status with some very good teams behind them ready to give them a real run for their money.