This weekend's matches got us all excited about pulling off another epic come from behind run to the Premier League title. Going into the weekend, United had built up a massive seven point lead. After a shock loss at Norwich on November 17th, United had won nine of their last 10 matches. Only a draw away at Swansea caused them to drop points in that span (but 28 out of 30 ain't bad).
Somewhat heartening for City fans is the fact that United had only kept 3 clean sheets out of those 10 matches (United sit in 10th place in goals allowed for the season). There was a good indication that Tottenham would be able to score against United, having put three past them at Old Trafford. In an amazing finish, Clint Dempsey looked through the snow long enough to slot one past a befuddled David de Gea (Texas is doing it's part to beat United!).
City are now only five back (and maybe just as importantly only one back in goal differential)! We've been here before too. Gaining points while United leave them scattered about on the ground, with Sir Alex seemingly more interested in getting attention rather than winning. It feels good to be here. It makes me want to put the Agueroooooooooooo video on a loop.
That's better. Ok, so how is it going to happen? Well there are eight matches before the next Manchester Derby. Here are the breakdowns for both United's and City's records against these next eight teams, and my interpretation of what the standings will be before the Derby.
* Record against team for either home or away matches. (Admittedly, this is to try and find a weakness for United)
** Last five for the past six-eight seasons; i.e. relevant matches.
Looking through their schedule, they should win the following matches fairly easily: Southampton, Fulham, QPR, Reading, and Sunderland (although their record at Sunderland isn't great, so could be a draw).
I think that they will either draw or lose against two of the last three teams. Everton beat United at Goodison Park, and got the crucial 4-4 draw last season against United. I think that the key to that match will be whether or not Fellaini is still at Everton when the transfer window closes. If he stays, he'll once again bully the United defense, and Everton will get points.
Norwich was the last team that was able to beat United. They're on a real poor run of form (5-0 against Liverpool?), and haven't won since December 15th. I wouldn't put it past them to get a freak draw against United.
Here is my semi-bold prediction - I think that the surprise loss will be found in the game against West Ham. United have a worse winning percentage at Upton Park than any of the other matchups in the next matches (25% win percentage). West Ham have been able to draw two of the last five league matches (not including the recent FA cup tie that they drew at Upton).
The Difficult Part
Manchester City have a tough schedule over the same period. We play Chelsea, Liverpool, and Everton. Everton have played well at home this season, losing only one game so far at home (W5 D5 L1). Chelsea have won more points from away matches than anyone not named Manchester United (W7 D2 L2). Liverpool aren't great away, but are better than most teams in the league (W3 D4 L4). I think that we'll win two of those matchups (Liverpool and Everton), and draw one (Chelsea).
The other 5 matches, while not guaranteed, should prove to be fairly easy, should City play up to potential. Those matches are against QPR, Southampton, Aston Villa, Wigan, and Newcastle. We have beaten all of those teams so far this season, and should beat them again. I predict 5 wins, and the full 15 points.
These next eight matches leading up to the Manchester Derby are going to be the key stretch of the season. If we can make up a couple of points over that stretch, a win at Old Trafford could put Manchester City in the driver's seat for the title. If City lose ground, it might not matter what happens at the Derby, and United will be on their way to another title.
8 matches, 5 wins, 2 draws (Everton, Sunderland), 1 loss (West Ham) - 17 points
8 matches, 7 wins, 1 draw (Chelsea) - 22 points
This prediction puts City and United tied when we meet for a title-defining 6 pointer at Old Trafford.
How do you think the next 8 games will pan out? Will United extend their lead, or will City catch them? Any way for City to pass United?