Roberto Mancini was left admitting Manchester City need to win all 10 remaining Premier League matches if they are to snatch the title away from bitter city rivals Manchester United.
The City manager, who was speaking after his side had snatched a 1-0 win over struggling Aston Villa on Monday, added that United, who hold a 12-point lead over his side, would also have to lose several matches if they were to retain the title they won in thrilling fashion on the final day of last season.
“It is difficult. We have 30 more points to play for and we need to try to win. We will see what happens at the end. Anything can happen in football,” Mancini said. “We need to win all the matches and they lose four or five.”
Mancini, whose best hope of silverware probably lies in the FA Cup which he won two years ago, revealed Jack Rodwell is set to face a month on the sidelines after hobbling off during the game.
It was yet another blow for the talented Rodwell, which came just 25 minutes into the contest in what was only his second start since September last year.
“We are very sorry for Jack, he is a good guy and player. He is unlucky. It is his hamstring,” Mancini said. “I think it is impossible to resolve this problem in six or seven months when he has had it for five or six years. It will need more time. I think he will be out until after the international break, it will be three or four weeks. He is young, he played very well against Chelsea and here.”
Villa, meanwhile, remain in 18th and were once again left to rue a costly lapse of concentration from a player at a key moment.
As the clock ticked down in first-half stoppage-time, Villa appeared to have survived the onslaught — but then came Ciaran Clarke’s moment to forget.
The defender, Villa’s last man, received a throw-in, but loitered in possession. With Edin Dzeko now upon him, he elected for a drag-back in a desperate attempt to get himself out of trouble, only to slip.
Dzeko charged through, before squaring to Carlos Tevez, who, in typically clinical fashion, sold goalkeeper Brad Guzan a dummy before slotting past the beleaguered Clarke, by now desperately attempting to make amends on the line.
It was a feat of finishing at its most ruthless and, although harsh on Villa, they only had themselves to blame — Clarke’s furious protests were waved away, and correctly so, by referee Mike Dean.
Manager Paul Lambert admitted it was a mistake by Clark, but refused to condemn the defender.
Villa’s forthcoming matches against fellow strugglers Reading and Queens Park Rangers now take on even further importance, but Lambert insists they can take heart from Monday’s display.
“I thought we were well in the game, but that’s football. You pick yourself up and go again,” Lambert said. “The next two games are massive for us. If we play like that, we will give teams a fright, that’s for sure.”