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The final stretch

Whilst we are currently in the midst of a long fifteen day break between games, what it has at least allowed is a chance to pause, reflect and take stock before reconvening against Sunderland this coming Sunday.

As it stands, we are currently in fifth place in the table with eleven games to play, behind on goal difference to Tottenham who currently hold possession of fourth place. With the ‘business end' of the season now upon us it is clear that it is a four way fight for the remaining Champions League position (although it will still require qualification to the group stages).

This has led to much analysis of the remaining fixtures, with the MEN's Stuart Brennan predicting a fourth place finish four us given his view of how the season will finish.

What cannot be in doubt is the importance of the remaining eleven games and it has even been suggested that these are the most important in the clubs history. Whilst that may seem a stretch given some of the turbulent periods the club has gone through, previous seasons have seen us attempt to survive relegation or gain promotion and have been about what we have to lose, whereas the 2009/10 is different is that this season is all about what we have to gain.  

The ADUG investment and the subsequent eighteen months have all been about building up to this

moment - where we take a big step to the next level. The positives and progress made during their tenure have been evident for all to see but it is clear that we do need to make the next move, and whilst it was not expected this season, chances to crash the top four have not been plentiful in recent years meaning you have to seize the opportunity when it presents itself.

It is likely to be a very see-saw finish to the season, with both victories and defeats being magnified in equal measure (witness Liverpool's reversal against Wigan this week). More and more it is becoming apparent that the game we have to play against Tottenham (due to be rescheduled from last weekend) will have a huge effect on the overall outcome. Although doughtier than in past seasons, I do still think that Aston Villa will fade away  (particularly with their continued involvement in the FA Cup - of which Tottenham's continued run is a bonus for us) whilst Liverpool - who I thought would be the biggest challenge to us - have not showed the required consistency at any stage of the season and the defeat to Wigan saw them slip further.

When analysing the transfers that Mark Hughes made - particularly in the summer - what was noticeable is not only did he bring in quality, but he strived to bring in a winning mentality. Players such as Toure, Adebayor and Tevez (and also witness Roberto Mancini's capture of Patrick Vieira) arrived with the experience and knowledge of what it takes to win, a vital attribute when trying to move a club onto the next level.

It is going to be a tough and tense final quarter of the season. The players have talked plenty in terms of finishing fourth and what this would mean.

It is now the time to show it.