Man City's title race isn't over yet but the stats don't inspire confidence
Manuel Pellegrini will leave Manchester City at the end of the season and it could yet be on the back of his most successful campaign with the club. The Chilean won the Premier League title and Capital One Cup in his first season in 2014. He already has the League Cup in the bag this year and hasn't given up on the title race despite trailing leaders Leicester City by 10 points with 10 games remaining.
His side finally look like they are making progress in Europe, too. After four seasons of competing in the Champions League without getting beyond the last-16, the Blues stand on the verge of reaching the quarterfinals for the first time following their first leg 3-1 victory over Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine. But their title hopes essentially depend on a big drop in form from Leicester -- and even second-placed Tottenham Hotspur -- and a string of results from Pellegrini's side that they have failed to produce since the opening weeks of the season.
The Foxes show no signs of crumbling under the pressure, having lost just one of their last 10 games and have picked up three more points than any of their rivals from their last three games. And City show few signs of putting together the run of results they need to worry Claudio Ranieri's side.
Saturday's 3-0 victory over rock-bottom Aston Villa finally ended a run of three successive defeats -- City's worse run since November 2008. They face Norwich City, another relegation-threatened side, this Saturday, which would look like another golden opportunity to pick up another three points. If they do beat the Canaries, it will be the first time they've won back-to-back games since Oct. 13.
That trip is followed by the Manchester derby against United at the Etihad Stadium; the Blues have to go back to August for the last time they put three victories together on the trot. If they do beat their neighbours, it will be the first time they have beaten another side from the top eight this season.
City's failure to take points off their rivals is the main reason why they are so far off the pace. In February they lost back-to-back games at home to Leicester and Tottenham -- had they won them both, City would have been a point off the top with a game in hand. Indeed, Pellegrini's side have picked up just three points from the other sides in the top-eight. That is a shocking statistic and to put it into context, it's the same number of points that Aston Villa have collected against the same seven sides.
Barring an incredible run-in, this will be the worse season in terms of points since Pellegrini took charge. Only 10 wins from their final 10 games of the season would see City pip last season's tally of 79 points. The previous season they collected 86 points. Furthermore, the Blues have lost eight games in the Premier League already. That's more than any other entire season since 2011 and more than any champions have produced in Premier League history.
City currently have 50 points from 28 games, which is eight fewer than at the same stage last season and 13 fewer than their 2014 title-winning season. But it could have looked so much worse had City not won their first five games of the season without conceding a goal. Take those victories away and they have picked up just 35 points from 23 games -- winning just 10 games during that time.
Pellegrini has predicted that his side must reach 75 points if they are to have any hope of finishing top. While that would match the lowest points tally amassed by any Premier League champions -- Manchester United in 1997 -- it would require a minimum of eight victories from the remaining games, which would fly in the face of their current form.
City do at least have history on their side. They won their final six games of the season in 2012 and their last five games in 2014 to win the title on the final day of the season. While they would have to go even better between now and their final match at Swansea City on May 15, the Blues do have a relatively kind run-in. They have five fixtures against bottom-half sides, while the games against United, Stoke City and Arsenal are at the Etihad -- City still have the best home record in the league.
One key statistic that could just swing the season in City's favour is that Pellegrini has his "five big players" fit and available for the run-in. The City boss has always talked about the quality and experience of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero. They have started just six games together in all competitions this season and City have won five of them. If they stay fit, the form book could yet be turned on its head and City could claim a third title in five years.
Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him @jonnysmiffy.