Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, who was always good for a quip, said about sports, “The game isn’t over until it’s over.” For Manchester City, “the game” — the Premier League season — is over.
We are sure City fans will object, but a 12-point deficit to Manchester United with 12 matches remaining, with a remaining schedule that should benefit United, likely will not be overcome. The glorious scene of City lifting the EPL trophy, after a late comeback to beat Queens Park Rangers on the final day of last season, will start to become a distant memory.
City looked bad Sunday in its 3-1 loss at Southampton, a loss that had manager Roberto Mancini observing, “They played really bad, without strength, without personality.” It might be hard to believe, but City played worse in a 0-0 draw at QPR two matches earlier.
Before Sunday’s match, Mancini said City remained a title contender. It’s understandable, the Blues overcame an eight-point lead with five weeks remaining to win the EPL title. About City’s chances for a repeat after the Southampton loss, Mancini said, “We have 10 percent — maybe.”
What has put City in its predicament has been its play. While United and City each have lost just three times, the difference comes as City has posted eight draws to United’s two — a 12-point difference.
That margin would be greater had City not squeezed out late victories: a Gareth Barry 93rd-minute goal Dec. 22 stole a 1-0 win against Reading; it got an own goal in the 67th minute Dec. 29 to escape from Norwich City with a 4-3 victory. That’s four points that could have been lost, and had Clint Dempsey‘s late goal not come in Tottenham Hotspur‘s 1-1 draw with United on Jan. 20, it would have been six. Add to it a 1-0 FA Cup win at Stoke City on Jan. 20, with an 85th-minute score by Pablo Zabaleta, and it’s clear City has lived on the edge this season.
The schedule does not benefit City. It still has six matches against current top-10 clubs: Chelsea, Everton, United, Tottenham, West Bromwich Albion and Swansea, and the Blues won just three and drew once with those clubs in their first meetings. United has Stoke, Arsenal, Chelsea, City, Swansea and West Bromwich — against whom it had five wins and a draw against Swansea. Surely this does not bode well for City.
The playbook for City fans is simple: pray for another miracle, which must include a win against United on April 6. We do not believe either will occur and they should be happy if the Blues hold onto its qualifying position for the UEFA Champions League next season.