Manchester City sit 9 points behind Manchester United. Our very own shuddertothink has written about the title race being over. The numbers are impossible to argue with, and the logical side of me agrees that there is no way we are going to catch Manchester United. They are running at an amazingly high level. But I can't stop my heart. It wants United to fail almost as much as it wants City to win.
If there is a chance for United to falter, it will happen over the next few weeks. Over the next month, between February 10th and March 9th, they play 7 matches (4 Premier League, 2 Champion's League, 1 FA Cup). Real Madrid await in the Champion's League, and if United want to win that, then there will be some squad rotation, which could lead to dropping points against teams like Everton, Norwich, and even West Ham.
I just hope that the squad can have the same attitude that prevailed last season. Let United worry about themselves. We just keep playing our game, and win matches, and let United feel the pressure. Let's hope they make it to the final, where they will be soul-crushingly defeated. That way they play as many matches as possible, dropping points left and right in the Premier League.
With that in mind, here are what I feel will be the keys of the match tomorrow against Southampton.
1. Yaya is back!! - While I feel that Yaya Toure hasn't played his best football of the season yet, there is no doubt that without him the squad is poorer. I hope that he will get right back into the swing of things. His return means that I don't have to see as much of Javi Garcia, which will help me sleep better at night. @viewfromablue perfectly summed up my feelings this morning when he tweeted: "Javi Garcia's birthday today. If someone could buy him some pace, the ability to pass and a sense of how to read the game, that'd be great."
I hope to see the deadly combination of Gareth Barry and Yaya in the central midfield, with David Silva on the left, and James Milner on the right. Play Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko up front, and I think that we have a great chance of breaking Southampton down.
2. Vinnie might play! - The City defense without Vincent Kompany at the back just doesn't seem right. Matija Nastasic is an amazing young player, but he doesn't have the experience to be responsible for shutting down strikers like Luis Suarez without Vinnie next to him. The Lescott/Nastasic partnership was not the worst, but certainly not the best either. Vinnie helps Nastasic to feel confident in his positioning and his passing, and having him back will be a huge boost to the City defense.
3. Strikers - Seriously guys, it's time to start thumping in some goals. This is the time to do it. They'll be playing us tight, looking to pack the box and counter. If we can get Silva some space to feed in good passes to Aguero (I can't stop watching that ridiculous goal v Liverpool), and Clichy and Zabs getting some good crosses in towards Dzeko, I don't see any reason why we can't score in bunches.
4. Southampton are in a weird way - Southampton fired Nigel Adkins just a few weeks ago. That totally makes sense. No sense in keeping the manager who got you promoted from League 1 to the Premier League in two seasons. Yes they're towards the bottom, but Adkins was earning points against good teams, including Chelsea and Arsenal. I think that Southampton will stay up, as they keep getting enough points to inch their way to safety. Over the last 8 matches, they have 1 win, 1 loss, and 6 draws. They almost stole a point off of United, and will be determined to try and catch one off of us.
5. Young guys - Will any of our young players get a run in the side as the season gets tight? Will John Guidetti get a look in? How about Denis Suarez (who seems to be getting a little anxious about playing time)? Will Marcos "Rony" Lopes get a run off the bench? I think that it might be time to see what we have in our youth setup. I am a huge believer that the key to success over the next 5 years will be found there, especially as FFP regulations start to tighten. We have great talent there, so let's see them play!