LIVE 41'
Match 16
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12:00 PM UTC
Match 15
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6:00 PM UTC
Match 17
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12:00 PM UTC Jun 20, 2018
Match 19
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Saudi Arabia
3:00 PM UTC Jun 20, 2018
Match 18
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6:00 PM UTC Jun 20, 2018
Match 20
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Transfer Rater: Douglas Costa to Man City

Football Whispers

Manchester City have a history of fighting back for the title

Six points off the top, successive home defeats to rivals Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur, no wins against a side in the top-six: Manchester City's title challenge appears to be falling apart.

Add to that a hectic schedule that shifts the focus onto the FA Cup, Champions League and Capital One Cup over the next three games and, with seven seniors players missing through injury, it's difficult to argue a case for Manuel Pellegrini's side clawing back a hefty deficit.

Indeed City could be 12 points behind Leicester before they next kick a ball in the Premier League -- next month. And that game will be against Liverpool at Anfield, a ground where they have won only once in their last 27 attempts.

With just 12 Premier League games of the season remaining, City must win nine and draw another if they are to match the 75 points amassed by Manchester United in 1997 -- the fewest points ever needed to claim a Premier League title. And the Blues haven't won back-to-back league matches for more than four months with just two wins in their last seven away games.

Statistically, it doesn't look good for Pellegrini in his bid to claim his second title and become the club's most successful ever manager before he leaves in the summer to be replaced by Pep Guardiola. It's hard to understand how City are making such a mess of their title challenge. They finished second to last season's winner Chelsea and responded by spending more than £140m on Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Otamendi. And with Chelsea struggling so badly, they should be streaking clear at the top.

The only problem is that City have never enjoyed leading from the front. This side only comes to life when they have their back against the wall and are forced to bring out their best performances. Take Pellegrini's only title success in 2013-14 when his side were top of the table for just 11 days out of 264. City trailed leaders Liverpool by six points with five games remaining. They won all five to heap the pressure on their rivals. Steven Gerrard famously slipped as Liverpool buckled and City went on to claim the title.

Vincent Kompany's winner in a 1-0 late season win over Manchester United in 2011-12 enabled Manchester City to top the table with two matches to play.
Vincent Kompany's winner in a 1-0 late season win over Manchester United in 2011-12 enabled Manchester City to top the table with two matches to play.

Two years earlier, former boss Roberto Mancini proclaimed "the title race is over" with his side eight points behind United and just six games remaining. That time they won all six -- including a tense 1-0 derby win over United in week 36 -- before becoming champions on the last day of the season with Sergio Aguero's dramatic injury-time winner landing the title when the odds looked stacked against them again.

Even last season after a disappointing run of form, they won their final six games to dismiss the potential of missing out on a top-four Champions League spot.

City are still reliant on the nucleus side of the side that won those two titles, despite the big-money new arrivals. Ahead of the defeat to Spurs, Pellegrini spoke of the importance of Aguero, Yaya Toure, David Silva and fit-again Vincent Kompany playing together once more. That quartet have led City's comebacks of the past and if they stay fit, they could yet drag them back into another title race.

The pressure and intensity is sure to build on their top-four rivals as the games run down. Leicester have never won a title, Tottenham haven't since 1961 while Arsenal won it 11 years ago but have regularly fallen away over the past decade whenever they have threatened a serious challenge.

There's no doubt that City have made it hard for themselves again. But they've fought back from tougher situations than this and they shouldn't be ruled out of doing it again just yet.

Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.


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