Manchester City might be the favourites for The Premier League title, according to many football betting outlets in the UK, but their midweek defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League was a clear reminder to fans that they are far from invincible as the race for the Premiership title heads into its final ten games, with Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool also in the hunt.
They have work to do to catch Chelsea, despite most people assuming they will lift the trophy come may, but here are five reasons why Manuel Pellegrini’s men could yet come unstuck in the title race.
Formations – The City chief loves to use the 4-4-2 formation and while it pays clinical rewards when City’s star men are fit, the system has been widely debated when Sergio Aguero has been injured this season. The defeat to Barcelona is the latest example, after Jose Mourinho outwitted his Premier League rivals twice earlier in the season. Even though the tie with Barca was based around a 4-4-1-1 counter attacking system, the team often strayed into a 4-4-2 and struggled to contain Barca on the break. If they had deployed a clear 4-5-1, or a 5-4-1, City could have forced Barca into the wide areas and stemmed the threat through the centre. Although the opposition won’t be of the same calibre as the Catalan giants every week, the strategy is clearly Pellegrini’s default plan and teams will surely take notice, such as Norwich did earlier this year when earning a 0-0 draw.
Martin Demichelis – The Argentinian may offer a veteran’s experience to Pellegrini – who paired with Demichelis at Malaga during their time at the club in 2011 – but he has been exposed as the weak link in a City defence since breaking into the first team. His lack of pace and agility was first exposed by Eden Hazard, in the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in the league a few weeks ago, and then by Lionel Messi in the Champions League defeat this week.
With the likes of Joleon Lescott, who partnered skipper Vincent Kompany in defence during City’s title winning season, waiting in the wings you have to wonder just how many chances the 33-year old has left.
Eden Hazard – With Jose Mourinho seemingly unlocking new levels of potential in the Belgian playmaker, he looks to be the driving force in Premier League rivals Chelsea’s title bid this season. Hazard recently netted a hat-trick against Newcastle and has scored twelve league goals this season. He is currently in the form of his life and should this continue it is unlikely Chelsea will give in to City, as they currently hold a one point lead over Arsenal in second and a three point advantage over City.
The fixture list – The Citizens are yet to face Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham and Liverpool in the second round of Premier League fixtures, with all of those fixtures coming away from home. A trip to high-flying Liverpool will be less than appealing, while Tottenham have a score to settle after their drubbing at the Etihad earlier in the season. Old rivals Manchester United will also want to scalp City, after they were battered at the Etihad in the reverse fixture, so rest assured there are plenty of hurdles for City to overcome – not to mention the current three point gap between themselves and Chelsea.
Injured Absentees – City haven’t looked the same side when star striker Sergio Aguero and midfield man Fernandinho have been on the sidelines. With Samir Nasri only recently returning from injury they do have a bit more depth now in the midfield positions and with Alvaro Negredo stepping up they also have other threats up front. It is results like the recent 0-0 draw with Norwich however, that show how much City rely on the duo. With Aguero up front and Fernandinho in the midfield, the Canaries’ defence would have likely crumbled due to Yaya Toure’s attacking presence, which is enabled by Fernandinho’s holding role, while we know all too well that Aguero is capable of conjuring a goal out of nothing. Should the pair fail to return soon then it may be an all too familiar scenario that City fail to break down defences, who undoubtedly raise their games against the potent goal scorers.