Are Manchester City rightful favourites for the Premier League title?

Man City Etihad

Bookmakers have Manchester City down as clear favourites to win the Barclays Premier League title come May, but are they rightfully favourites in a fiercely competitive season?

Manuel Pellegrini has got City heading in the right direction in his first season in charge, as the team are still involved in all four competitions, and they have a realistic chance at winning all of those.

City were top of the table on Sunday night until an Arsenal win at Villa Park put them back down to second. In the eyes of many, come the end of the season, first is where they will end up.

City’s home form has been impeccable so far this season, having won all ten matches played at The Etihad, scoring 38 goals and conceding just six up to this point. They have already beaten rivals Manchester United, as well as Everton, Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool on home soil with Chelsea coming to play City in just three weeks, on February 3.

Their recent form has been almost perfect, with just one loss in their last 12 Premier League matches. Manuel Pellegrini scooped the December Manager of The Month award last week, and rightly so, as his side won six from seven games in December, with the 1-1 draw at Southampton the only occasion in which they dropped points.

They have started the New Year in good form too, with two away wins at Swansea and Newcastle in the league, and a 6-0 demolition over West Ham in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg last Wednesday. A 1-1 draw at Blackburn in the FA Cup is the only disappointment so far.

They have enjoyed a fine spell without their best striker as well, as Sergio Aguero has missed the last four weeks with a calf injury. But the prolific Argentine is set to return this week, after stating so himself on his official website: “I’ll be ready for action this week, my injury is improving slowly. Recovery's going very well. I'm back to sprinting on the field and moving the ball around.”

“I'll be fully recovered by the Cardiff game and, depending on how the week's training goes, I may be able to show up for a few minutes on the second leg against Blackburn for the FA Cup." Aguero confirmed.

Aguero had scored 19 goals in his last 20 games before picking up an injury in the 6-3 victory over Arsenal on December 14. His return will add to an already frightening attacking core at Manchester City’s disposal.

The Blues have an abundance of talent in midfield and attack, and this large squad will be needed if Pellegrini’s side are to fulfil their ambitions this season.

Although there are concerns defensively for City, with a lack of world-class talent at the back. Vincent Kompany is one of, if not the best centre-backs in the game, but City could do with bringing in someone better this month to partner Kompany at the back.

Matija Nastasic is promising, but at only 20 years-old, has a lot to learn. Joleon Lescott looks set to depart this month as he looks for more first-team football in a bid to secure a spot in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad and Martin Demichelis, at 33, has his best years behind him.

Another concern for The Citizens will be their away form. Their problems on the road have been well documented all season, and it will be a concern for Pellegrini that they must still play a number of tough games away from The Etihad.

They have only won five of their 11 away games in the league, and look a completely different side to the force that they are at home. They have scored 21 goals on their travels, but conceded 17.

Though things have improved recently, as City have won their last three away games, and have picked up 13 points from their last five games on the road.

The doubt over their tag as favourites comes from the fact that City have to go away to nearly all of the league’s top sides, having only played Chelsea away so far, and they lost that game 2-1.

With trips to Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton all to play, it would appear too early to label the Blues as favourites. Each of these games will be huge fixtures, but question marks have to be raised over City’s away performances, and whether or not they can pick up points in the big away games.

As mentioned earlier City are still in four competitions, and as much of an achievement this is, the club’s fixture list looks daunting as a result. At this stage of the season, injuries start to creep in and in yesterday’s win at Newcastle Samir Nasri picked up what looked like a serious injury to his knee, with Yaya Toure also struggling with an ongoing ankle problem.

Despite boasting a large squad, Pellegrini will not want to see any more players facing spells on the sidelines, and this will be a concern with games coming thick and fast for the Blues.

The Premier League has already thrown up plenty of drama this season, but expect much more as the race for the title looks set to go down to the wire. Arsenal are continuing to pick up points, despite many playing down the sides title chances. Mourinho has finally got Chelsea on track as well, as they have conceded just once in their last five.

It looks set to be a three-way battle for the title, but as we all know, so much can change so quickly in the Premier League.

image: © alfonso jimenez

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