What a difference a year makes. When Manchester City last dropped home points in the Premier League, in a 1-1 draw with Fulham 12 months ago today, they sat third in the table with 50 points from 28 matches and a goal difference of +19, 10 points behind Manchester United.
Today they look down on United, with 63 points from 26 games and a goal difference of +48. That is a big step forward – even for a club whose spending makes their success seem inevitable – and it shows why David Platt, City's first-team coach, believes that, with 12 games to go, it will take something special to dislodge Roberto Mancini's side from the summit.
"Statistics will tell you that it is very difficult to [win] 12 or 13 times on the bounce. But there is enough belief in us to realise that we can win enough to make it very difficult for the others to catch us," said Platt, a member of Arsenal's 1998 double-winning side that earned 10 straight league victories in the run-in.
Platt, speaking after Saturday's stroll against Blackburn, noted that tougher tests will lie ahead as he recalled how Arsenal "got absolutely battered" in one game at Bolton yet today's Wanderers side appear unlikely to provide a repeat at the Etihad next Saturday when City have the opportunity to extend their lead over United, 24 hours before their visit to Tottenham.
City have won 18 consecutive home league matches, 13 this season, and striker Edin Dzeko, scorer of the third goal on Saturday, underlined the significance of this sequence to their title push. "When I won the [Bundesliga] with Wolfsburg, we won 16 out of 17 home games, so maybe that's the key."
Whether they can end the campaign with a 100 per cent home record remains to be seen – they have still to host Chelsea and then United in a potential a title decider on 30 April – but whatever follows, the City machine is purring once more. Since defeat at Everton, they have posted five straight wins and Saturday's return of Yaya Toure, for his first league outing since the Africa Cup of Nations, and Mario Balotelli, back from his four-match ban, had a telling impact summed up by their roles in the opening goal.
Toure, winning the ball and supplying David Silva, started the move and Balotelli, with a crisp first-time finish from Aleksandr Kolarov's cross, concluded it. Sergio Aguero and substitute Dzeko's second-half strikes gave the scoreline a more accurate reflection of City's dominance.
Steve Kean, the Blackburn manager, noted the "freshness" of City's performance. "A big factor of that is when they rotate the squad and the standard of players they bring in," he said, citing how Kolarov, creator of two goals, had come in for Gael Clichy. They may have Carlos Tevez to add to the mix, although Platt noted it would not be before the 10 March visit to Swansea at the earliest; moreover, with their frontline strikers now on 52 goals between them, do they really need him?
Blackburn, back in the bottom three, were a shadow of the side who won at Old Trafford on 31 December. That day they had midfielder Steven N'Zonzi, restricted here by illness to a brief late cameo – "when he came on that was the best we kept the ball," Kean lamented – and also Christopher Samba, who joined Russia's Anzhi Makhachkala on Friday. "He wanted to go, he made that quite public. On a positive side, now we know everyone we have in the dressing room wants to be here. We will all be pulling together." With trips to Wolves and Bolton looming in March, that is the least they will need.
Platt added that Gareth Barry, who was not in the squad on Saturday, had not played because of a tight hamstring but that he would be fine for England on Wednesday. The same goes for Micah Richards.
Man City: HART 6/10; ZABALETA 6; KOMPANY 7; LESCOTT 6; KOLAROV 7; Y TOURE 7; DE JONG 6; AJOHNSON 6; SILVA 7; AGUERO 8; BALOTELLI 8
Blackburn: ROBINSON 6; MARTIN OLSSON 5; HANLEY 5; DANN 6; ORR 5; MARCUS OLSSON 5; PEDERSEN 6; PETROVIC 4; FORMICA 5; HOILETT 5; YAKUBU 5
Scorers: Manchester City Balotelli 30, Aguero 52, Dzeko 81.
Substitutes: Man City Pizarro 6 (A Johnson, 70), Dzeko (Balotelli, 79), Milner (Y Touré, 86). Blackburn Rovers Rochina 5 (Formica, 69), Nzonzi 6 (Petrovic, 69).
Booked: Blackburn Hanley, Orr.
Man of the match Balotelli. Match rating 7/10.
Possession: Man City 69% Blackburn 31%.
Attempts on target: Man City 13 Blackburn 2.
Referee M Jones (Cheshire) Attendance 46,782.Reuse content