LONDON: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini believes the destiny of an intriguing battle for the league could be decided this weekend.
The mathematics of the situation have become increasingly stark for City, bidding to be crowned champions of England for the first time since 1968, as they have dropped points in recent weeks.
They are currently five points behind leaders and reigning champions Manchester United. And that deficit could be increased to eight points by the time they kick-off against Arsenal tomorrow, should United beat QPR earlier in the day.
“We should think positive for the next seven games,” said Mancini. “I think it may be more difficult but it is my opinion that this championship is not finished.”
United, who are seemingly making serene progress towards a 20th English title, appear to have the easier run-in, with their next three opponents – QPR, Wigan and Aston Villa – all battling to preserve their top-flght status.
Fergie won’t be drawn on title talk
Sir Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, has warned his Manchester United players to ignore Mancini’s claim they can effectively wrap up another Premier League title this weekend.
“I’m not getting into that, I don’t need to get into that,” said Ferguson. “We must concentrate on the game ahead. We’ll focus on that, not worry about elsewhere. I wouldn’t anticipate complacency [from my players] but I do think if you’re concentration is not 100% then there will be moments in games like we experienced recently against Fulham.”
Spurs eye third-place today
Meanwhile, Tottenham will, temporarily at least, go into third ahead of Arsenal if they get a point at Sunderland today before the Gunners play City.
“We have to be strong if we want to finish third,” said Tottenham’s former Arsenal defender William Gallas.
The Gunners have endured a see-saw campaign but could yet finish third, which would represent something of a triumph for manager Arsene Wenger, whose judgment was criticised by some Arsenal fans earlier in the campaign.
Chelsea will look to back up their midweek Champions League win against Benfica when they face relegation-threatened Wigan, but the Blues will be without inspirational skipper John Terry because of a rib injury.
Liverpool will look to end their worst run of league results for 59 years against Aston Villa in a match where goal-keeper Alexander Doni is set to make his debut as Pepe Reina starts a three-match ban following his red card against Newcastle.
Wolves, six points adrift at the bottom of the table, travel to Stoke. But with the four teams above Wolves separated by just a point, it’s anyone’s guess as to who else will be playing in the Championship next term.
Both Blackburn, away to West Brom, and Bolton, at home to Fulham, will fancy their chances of picking up points today.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2012.