Ball back in City’s court

Paul Parker

After another pivotal weekend of results at the top of the Premier League table, I think that Manchester City now have the advantage in the title race.

I would peg them as slight favourites ahead of leaders Manchester United simply because they have the momentum with them. Travelling to Molineux was not as tough a task as United hosting Everton, but in beating Wolves 2-0 after United had drawn 4-4 at home to the Toffees they have turned things back in their favour.

United have lost to Wigan and let a two-goal lead slip against Everton in their last three games. City, meanwhile, have won their last three, scoring 12 in the process as Carlos Tevez's return has given them a massive boost at a crucial time in the campaign.

You have to wonder if they would already have the league wrapped up if Tevez had been available to them all season. City have shown they are willing to forgive and forget — until the end of the season at least — and it looks like they may reap the rewards.

City will prepare for next week's derby at the Etihad Stadium full of confidence. They know they can beat United, especially at home where they have been so strong all season. You can hark back to their 6-1 win at Old Trafford last October, but also the FA Cup third-round tie in January which they ended up losing narrowly 3-2 despite being reduced to 10 men for most of the game.

A lot of the style and swagger that City were displaying earlier in the season has returned to their performances of late. Despite a whole host of on- and off-the-field issues that have dogged them over the course of the season they seem to be clicking back into gear at just the right time. Player for player, you have to say that they have the better team.

By contrast, United looked all over the place defensively at times against Everton, and that may well knock their confidence going into next week's derby. Jonny Evans is no Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra has been poor defensively for a while now, while it is impossible to know what Rafael da Silva is going to do from one moment to the next. Chris Smalling has struggled for form since that clash of heads with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar forced him off in February's England friendly against Netherlands, while Phil Jones looks like he has run himself into the ground at the end of his first season at Old Trafford.

Under the circumstances, a clean sheet at City would be an excellent result, both in itself and in terms of it putting their destiny back in their own hands.

A lot is always made of how experience of situations like this can play a crucial part in deciding titles, but right now United are having an uncharacteristic wobble at a time of the season when they are usually at their strongest.

However much Roberto Mancini tries to play down his team's chances, the ball is very much in their court going into next week's game.

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