Manchester City playmaker David Silva thinks the absence of Argentine forward Carlos Tevez at the head of the club's striking line has been a major factor in his side's fall from the top of the league table. City, who were leading rivals Manchester United by five points heading into the New Year, now trail Sir Alex Ferguson's side by the same margin, with just five games remaining.
Tevez has been impressive since his return to the City squad - following a five-month break after causing controversy by refusing to come on as a substitute in a Champions League match against Bayern Munich in September. Silva feels that Tevez's absence for such a long period, along with fellow striker Mario Balotelli's red card bans and bust-ups with manager Roberto Mancini have affected the team's form.
"We have failed in key moments of the season and United have really profited. We've dropped points in games where it was obligatory to win," The Sun quoted the Spaniard as saying.
"I don't analyse the behaviour of team-mates but Carlos and Mario are the main men here. We need them in attack and their absence has been noticed. Their future depends on Roberto Mancini and the club. People speak about inexperience but I think absences, injuries and our own anxiety have motivated United's rise," the former Valencia star explained.
Mancini threw in the towel a few days ago, saying United had won the title, although City won against West Brom in midweek and the Red Devils lost against Wigan, reducing United's lead to five points from eight.
However, Silva, who has been a key man for City this season with eight goals and 16 assists, believes his club is still in the race and can win the title, especially with the Manchester derby at Etihad still to be played.
"It is still not impossible for us to win the title. Now we must depend on them making errors but they aren't superior to us," the 26 year old said
City visit Norwich on Saturday and Silva, who knows his club cannot afford any more losses or even draws, has urged his teammates to rediscover the goal-scoring form that propelled them to the top early on in the season.
"Norwich have been a revelation but we have to win every match left. We are still serious candidates and must fight for the title," Silva added.