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Premier League title race will be tighter than expected

Saturday 10th February 2018

The Premier League has delivered plenty of drama this season. The title race remains the most-debated subject. With the gap between first and second narrowing by two points recently, the outcome will prove tighter than many assume.  

Manchester City has been dominant throughout this campaign. Comfortably sitting in pole position, Pep Guardiola's men look a force to be reckoned with. They currently have more goals than points, having found the net 74 times while amassing 69 points. 

City's biggest rivals, meanwhile, trail 13 points behind. Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has already conceded defeat in the title race. He shouldn't have, though, as there's still an opportunity to put pressure on the Citizens. 

Although most teams which develop a commanding lead atop the Premier League table usually go on to secure the title, some have been known to blow it towards the season's latter stage. Ask Newcastle United fans. In 1995-96, the Magpies had the trophy in sight, sitting top with a 12-point cushion. Two striking similarities to today: it was early February and Man United were the team chasing. During the remaining games, Kevin Keegan's side went on a run of picking up only four points from a possible six. They had crumbled, leaving the Red Devils to pick up the pieces. 

It proves anything is possible.

If Man United stay consistent over the last 12 games, they will make life difficult for the league leaders. City have a huge head start, but the gap isn't unbreachable. A few defeats and panic could set in. United must then be ready to take full advantage. 

Despite losing 2-0 to Tottenham Hotspur, Man United recovered in the next game to see off Huddersfield Town by the same scoreline. City, meanwhile, beat West Bromwich Albion but then dropped two points against an out of form Burnley.  

In the last five games, United have kept four clean sheets while the Citizens have managed just one. Is the tide beginning to turn?

Man City face Leicester on Saturday. The Riyad Mahrez situation threatens to overshadow the game. It could spur the Foxes on and cause the Citizens to take their eye off the ball. United fans live in hope. Any kind of slip would be celebrated at Old Trafford. Even though Guardiola's side are tough to crack, Leicester are more than capable of unsettling any Premier League team.

The following day, Man United travel to St James' Park to take on a Newcastle side which haven't won in four games. Mourinho will be intent on making the Magpies suffer further. 

As well as handling the pressure, the title's destination will come down to individual quality. Signing Alexis Sanchez could prove crucial for United. His arrival already looks to have boosted morale around Old Trafford. Others such as David de Gea, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku will have to hit top form for the Red Devils to stand any chance of being crowned champions. As for City, they posess a strong, diverse squad. They have players who can perform in multiple positions, meaning injuries to Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus can be easily overcome. 

The next few games are crucial for both Manchester teams. Results could see a significant shift in momentum. The winning habit is easily broken. From 12 December to 20 January, Chelsea had gone eight games unbeaten, picking up 18 points. A shock 3-0 home defeat to Bournemouth, however, was followed by another heavy loss. This time 4-1 away at Watford. The Blues had surrendered their dominant form in less than a week.  

Even though Man City look like romping to the Premier League title, United must retain hope. The Red Devils clawed their way to the top 22 years ago, overcoming a deficit just one point less than what it is now. This season's finale may yet be closer than most people think. 

Jamie Kynaston

For my sins, I'm a season ticket holder at Stoke City, I have been proud to watch them for over 20 years. I follow most of the UK leagues and the major European ones too, and I've been told that I talk way too much about football.

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