In the first of a two-part series, Dan Burke attempts to predict the outcome of the first five of City’s 10 remaining Premier League fixtures. Do you agree with Dan’s predictions? Let us know in the comments below.
City travel to Carrow Road on Saturday lunchtime to take on Norwich City in the first of their final 10 matches of the 2015/16 Premier League season.
The Blues are currently 4th in the table, 10 points behind leaders Leicester City, and Manuel Pellegrini and his players will know they probably can’t afford any more slip ups if they’re to somehow haul themselves back into this season’s title race.
But before they can even think about that, they must first focus on the more pressing matter of solidifying their place in the top four and securing Champions League football for next season – something which, at this moment in time, is far from guaranteed.
City’s away form has been a problem all season and the Blues have only notched up five wins on the road in the league with the last one coming in early February. It is worrying, then, that six of the remaining 10 fixtures will take place away from the Etihad Stadium.
Meanwhile, City are still to welcome both Manchester United and Arsenal to the Etihad before the season ends and the outcomes of both fixtures could prove to be very decisive in one way or another. They haven’t beaten a side in the top eight all season and now would be an excellent time to start.
Let’s take a look at City’s next five fixtures and see if we can work out how many points of the 15 available they’re likely to pick up.
Norwich City (A) – 12th March 2016, 12:45
City fans will have fond memories of the 6-1 win on this ground which reignited the title challenge in April 2012 and a similarly seismic result could be just as important this time around.
The relegation threatened Canaries are currently 18th in the table and haven’t won in the Premier League since they beat Southampton at Carrow Road on the 2nd of January.
City won the reverse fixture 2-1 at the Etihad in October thanks to a late Yaya Toure penalty and also ran out 3-0 winners at Carrow Road in the FA Cup 3rd round.
Both sides are desperately in need of points for differing reasons and the first match of the Premier League weekend could well be a tight affair decided by the odd goal.
Prediction: A narrow 1-0 or 2-1 City win.
Manchester United (H) – 20th March 2016, 16:00
Though this won’t be the biggest Manchester Derby in recorded history, its importance to the fans of both teams should never be understated.
United have had a relatively poor season up to now and it seems highly likely manager Louis van Gaal will be given his marching orders in May, whether they’re able to finish in the top four or not. They are currently 6th in the table, three points behind City and, due to their participation in the FA Cup this weekend, could be six points behind going into the derby.
The second leg of their Europa League tie against Liverpool will take place three days before this match and their exertions in trying to overhaul a two goal deficit from the first leg could play right into City’s hands.
October’s derby at Old Trafford was a drab 0-0 draw and everyone will be hoping for a bit more entertainment value this time around. The last time United won at the Etihad in the league was in April 2010 when a late Paul Scholes header put a huge dent in City’s chances of finishing in the top four. For all their faults, United still have the ability to rise to an occasion and underestimating them would be very foolish indeed.
Prediction: City to win 3-1.
Bournemouth (A) – 2nd April 2016, 15:00
Bournemouth’s first ever season in England’s top flight has so far been an unmitigated success and Eddie Howe’s team could well be as good as safe from relegation by the time City visit the Vitality Stadium next month.
The Cherries are currently 14th in the table and 11 points clear of the relegation zone. They’re on a three match unbeaten run at the time of writing and will play Swansea City at home and Tottenham Hotspur away before City rock up on the south coast.
A Raheem Sterling hat-trick helped City to a 5-1 win when the two sides met at the Etihad Stadium in October but you sense this match will be a much closer affair and has the potential to be a real banana skin if the Blues don’t approach it in the right manner.
Prediction: A 1-1 draw.
West Bromwich Albion (H) – 9th April 2016, 17:30
Wins at home to West Brom were catalysts in City’s charge towards the Premier League title in both 2012 and 2014 and the fact this fixture again falls at a similar time of the year this season is hopefully a good omen in that regard.
Tony Pulis’ team are on a four match unbeaten run at the time of writing and sit pretty in 11th place, 15 points clear of the bottom three. They will play Norwich at home and Sunderland away prior to their trip to the Etihad.
City’s season got off to a flier with a 3-0 win at the Hawthorns on the opening weekend and a similar result will be extremely welcome when the two sides meet for the return fixture.
Prediction: City to win 4-1.
Chelsea (A) – 16th April 2016, 17:30
Chelsea’s defence of the title they won last season has been an unbelievably poor one and a series of bad results, off-field transgressions and dressing room unrest eventually cost manager José Mourinho his job back in December.
However, interim manager Guus Hiddink has managed to steady the ship somewhat and although Chelsea exited the Champions League this week and are unlikely to make a late assault on the top four, they are still in the FA Cup and currently sit in 10th place in the table with 40 points.
The highest point of City’s league campaign arguably came when they thrashed Chelsea 3-0 at the Etihad in the second game of the season, a result which felt monumental at the time but seems less impressive in retrospect.
City were beaten 5-1 at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup in February but not too much should be read into that result given Manuel Pellegrini’s team was filled with several inexperienced young debutants.
Stamford Bridge hasn’t been a very happy hunting ground for City over the years and this game represents a chance for the hosts to salvage some pride from their season by beating one of the league’s bigger teams. That the match will take place immediately after the second leg of the Champions League Quarter Final could also be advantageous to the home side, assuming City get that far.
Prediction: Chelsea to win 2-0.
So, I make that three wins, one draw and one defeat from the next five games which would take City’s points total for the season to 60 going into the run in. 60 points at that stage should mean City will be well on the way to securing a top four spot but sadly, they’ll more than likely be as good as out of the title race.
For context, here are the next five fixtures of the other sides in the top six, subject to change (bear in mind City currently have a game in hand over all of them but that will soon change due to this weekend’s FA Cup ties):
Leicester: Newcastle (H), Crystal Palace (A), Southampton (H), Sunderland (A), West Ham (H)
Tottenham: Aston Villa (A), Bournemouth (H), Liverpool (A), Man Utd (H), Stoke (A)
Arsenal: Everton (A), Watford (H), West Ham (A), Crystal Palace (H), Sunderland (A)
West Ham: Chelsea (A), Crystal Palace (H), Arsenal (H), Leicester (A), West Brom (A)
Man Utd: Man City (A), Everton (H), Tottenham (A), Aston Villa (H), Leicester (A)
In part two, I’ll be back to reassess the situation and predict the outcome of City’s final five games, just before Stoke City’s visit to the Etihad on the 24th of April.
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Written by Dan Burke