Can Liverpool catch Manchester City and still qualify for the Champions League?

Defeat to Manchester United has put City in Liverpool's sights

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The Independent Online

Manchester City's hopes of retaining their Premier League crown are now certainly over following their humiliating defeat to Manchester United. It was a result that saw them remain fourth in the table and lagging behind their greatest rival by four points and table-toppers Chelsea by 12.

But despite their hopes of reaching the summit being extinguished, Manuel Pellegrini's side must lift themselves up and battle on as qualification for the Champions League is by no means guaranteed.

Liverpool, the side that pushed them so close to the title last season, are mathematically their closest rivals for a place in the top four, currently trailing by seven points but with tonight's game against Newcastle in hand.

When Liverpool themselves lost to Manchester United last month it seemed as though their chances of a second consecutive season in Europe's elite competition were over, but Manchester City are offering hope. Here, we take a look at why Brendan Rodgers and his team can remain optimistic of overtaking Manchester City before the end of the season...

Manchester City form...

Pellegrini's side are in free-fall. Of their last eight matches they have lost six. They have not won away for over two months, in the meantime suffering defeats at Anfield, Turf Moor and Selhurst Park against Liverpool, Burnley and Crystal Palace respectively. The defeats to those latter two sides will be of the greatest concern to the reigning champions, matches that on paper they should easily have won.

 

Liverpool set-backs...

Liverpool looked on an unstoppable charge not long ago. After a 3-0 defeat to Manchester United in mid-December they went unbeaten until they played their bitter arrivals again at the end of March. That defeat was swiftly followed by a 4-1 loss to Arsenal. Despite the losses, they can be justified to an extent (certainly in comparison to City's recent defeats), with both coming against sides that themselves were enjoying excellent spells. Rodgers must convince his team that they can go again.

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Distractions...

Recent results have put pressure on Manchester City manager Pellegrini and speculation over the Chilean's future will only serve as a distraction. There is also uncertainty around a number of high profile players, with Yaya Toure courting interest from Inter Milan and James Milner refusing to sign a new contract.

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The games ahead...

After tonight, both teams will have six games remaining. Both have potential pitfalls, with matches to come against those fighting for rewards at both ends of the table. Manchester City play away against Tottenham and face relegation threatened sides Aston Villa and QPR before playing the season's surprise package, Southampton, on the final day. Liverpool have Hull and QPR in terms of those likely to be giving it their all for survival, and must also play table-toppers Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. But based on recent performances, Liverpool will be the more confident heading into their upcoming fixtures.

Remaining fixtures...

MANCHESTER CITY: West Ham (H), Aston Villa (H), Tottenham (A), QPR (H), Swansea (A), Southampton (H)

LIVERPOOL: Newcastle (H), West Brom (A), Hull (A), QPR (H), Chelsea (A), Crystal Palace (H), Stoke (A)

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