Pep Guardiola has conceded that Manchester City's faint hopes of winning the Premier League title are now definitely over following a narrow 2-1 defeat to favourites Chelsea on Wednesday night (5 April).
With the usually dominant league leaders having shown rare signs of vulnerability in a shock home loss to Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win for the fourth-place City at Stamford Bridge could have given hope that they could repeat their stunning exploits of five years ago. In 2012, a City-side then under the leadership of Roberto Mancini successfully overhauled an eight-point deficit and pipped rivals Manchester United to glory on a memorable final day.
Guardiola's side were unable to take advantage of that minor Chelsea wobble, however, with Willy Caballero failing to keep out Eden Hazard's early effort that deflected off the head of returning City captain Vincent Kompany, making his first start since November.
Hazard then turned home his own penalty rebound after Sergio Aguero had been gifted a City equaliser thanks to horrendous goalkeeping from Thibaut Courtois.
City's first defeat in the league since mid-January leaves them 12 points adrift of their opponents with only eight games left to play. They are now two behind Liverpool with a game in hand and four clear of Arsenal, who have played one match less.
"The Premier League is gone," an honest Guardiola admitted to BT Sport after the full-time whistle. "Now it will be a battle to qualify for the Champions League."
City dominated large periods of the second half in west London, with Kompany heading against the woodwork and John Stones sending a stoppage-time volley agonisingly over the crossbar. Despite the eventual result, Guardiola expressed pride in his players and their largely positive display.
"I'm a lucky guy," he said. "I'm a lucky manager to be with these players, to be manager of the club. Hopefully they can keep the trust with me because I would like to put the team a step forward."
He added: "I'm so, so happy the way we came here to Stamford Bridge and played how we played."
Next up for City are meetings with Hull City and Southampton before a Wembley FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal and the small matter of a rearranged Thursday-night derby clash with United at the Etihad Stadium.