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Will defensive instability hurt City's title hopes?

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It was a while coming but in the second half against Stoke we got to see the levels of attacking play that we know this City side are capable of, delivering a performance that simply blows an opponent away.

Is it too late to save their title hopes though? Quite possibly. In their two recent Premier League wins City of course came back from deficits late in the season to win the title on the final day. Does it feel different this time? At present it does. With 13 games remaining city can barely afford to drop any points at all. Even a return of 35 points (11 wins and two draws for example) would see Chelsea able to drop 10 of their remaining 39 points. Without a fixture against Chelsea to effect a six-point swing this may prove a step too far.

The hope is that with the attack has finally found a return to form and, if so, they are capable of putting such a required run together - especially with Yaya Toure now available and with Wilfried Bony waiting in the wings. Fortunately, the concern over Sergio Aguero appeared premature.

But even allowing for a Chelsea slip the concern is that City have simply been too inconsistent to put such a run down the stretch together. And as much as has been made over their lack of goals, is the bigger concern their defensive performance?

The second half performance at Stoke was welcome enough but did mask what was again a poor defensive showing. Without Toure, the duo of Fernandinho and (particularly) Fernando have struggled, whilst the central area has looked anythign but the rock that a title challenge is built upon. Injuries have not helped Vincent Kompany and he has struggled to maintain consistency when available, which in turn may have effected the assimilation too of Eliaquim Mangala.

The Frenchman possess appealing attributes but there are legitimate concerns over how he has performed thus far. All this has left Martin Demichelis as the safest option available to Manuel Pellegrini - quite the thought given his reputation last year. Demichelis is clearly on the downside of his career though (and may not be at the club next season). The duo of Kompany-Magala need to find their stride as a partnership, and quickly.

Despite an upturn in form from Gael Clichy earlier this season, the question mark over both him and Alek Kolarov remain, Bacary Sagna is a serviceable option at best and Pablo Zabaleta has shone too briefly. As a unit the cohesion required has been far from evident for virtually the whole season and too often preventable goals have been conceded that has hurt City's hopes.

Perhaps a growing confidence in the attacking aspect of City's play will help in this regard; an easing of the pressure maybe which will allow more rythmn and command to creep back into their play. Consistency of selection too may help and it is likely Pellegrini will settle on a desire back four for the most part from now on.

We shouldn't count City out of the title race by any means but the talk of City 'being back' following the win at Stoke is premature and there is much more needed from the defence before we can realistically ascertain that City have more than an outside shot.