If Manchester United can keep pace through the upcoming weekend, they will be well positioned for the title run-in

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 08: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United scores the opening goal during the FA Cup Third Round match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium on January 8, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

About a month ago, I examined the February fixture list of the Premier League title contenders. At that time, Manchester City looked to have a favorable fixture list for that time frame and I anticipated that Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson would be content if his side came away from this weekend's upcoming trip to White Hart Lane within three points of the 'noisy neighbours'. As it currently stands, United trail City by two points as the champions have done well to earn three points versus Liverpool FC and away to Norwich City in recent weeks. They also valiantly earned a point at Stamford Bridge when they leveled the match after trailing by three goals to Chelsea FC. City have done well to take advantage of their favorable fixture list at the moment by earning the maximum points during this time. They will be heavily favored to earn three points this weekend when they host Bolton Wanderers as well.

A few days ago, Fergie talked about this upcoming weekend's 'massive game' versus Tottenham Hotspur and the current state of the title-race. Here is what he had to say:

"It’s going to be a massive game [versus Spurs]. If we can survive that one, then we’ll have a big, big chance of winning the league. Yes, I would take it [being two points behind going into the Etihad Stadium fixture]. I would rather go there on level points. But if we could go there within striking distance of being top of the league, I’d take it."

-Ferguson | ManUtd.com

If United can indeed get through this weekend's difficult game at White Hart Lane with three points -- versus a Spurs side that could potentially be without Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart, and Kyle Walker -- then they will be very well positioned for the title run-in. Harry Redknapp will already be without Scott Parker after he was sent off last weekend during the North London derby. After the Spurs contest, 11 matches remain on United's league fixture list and only one is versus another top 8 side -- the possible title-decider at the Etihad versus City on April 30. In contrast, after City's very winnable game at the weekend versus Bolton, they face a difficult stretch that includes the likes of Chelsea, away to Arsenal, and of course United. Away ties to Swansea City, Stoke City, Norwich City, and Newcastle United along with a home match with Sunderland will be challenges as well.

Week

UNITED

CITY

27

(a) Tottenham

Bolton

28

West Brom

(a) Swansea

29

(a) Wolves

Chelsea

30

Fulham

(a) Stoke

31

(a) Blackburn

Sunderland

32

QPR

(a) Arsenal

33

(a) Wigan

West Brom

34

Aston Villa

(a) Norwich

35

Everton

(a) Wolves

36

(a) City

United

37

Swansea

(a) Newcastle

38

(a) Sunderland

QPR

If we assume that City defeats Bolton at the weekend, then we would still be in terrific shape for the run-in if we are able to earn three points versus Spurs. This keeps us within Fergie's two-point target. Even if we were to draw or lose at Spurs, we'd still be in okay shape in the title-race since City looks to have a more difficult stretch of games for the run-in. It would obviously be ideal to be the leaders going into that possible title-decider on April 30 so that only a draw could allow us to retain a lead. In that optimistic scenario, perhaps the title could be won in Week 37 when City travel to the North East to face a Newcastle side that potentially could be in a fight for a Champions League spot -- or a Europa League spot.

Anyway, the match with Spurs should probably be our focus but it's encouraging to know that even if we were to fall five points behind this weekend in the title race, we'd still be in decent position for the title-race. As Fergie said, this weekend is a 'massive' game --three points would be massive in propelling us into the run-in.

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