Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has finally admitted his side are the favourites to win the 2011/12 Premier League title. City are on top of the league table, albeit on goal difference, with just one game remaining in the season and could win their first league title in more than four decades if they beat QPR.
"It was an important game as without this victory it wasn't important we beat Manchester United last Monday. This was always going to be difficult. Newcastle are a good team and have had a fantastic season. To win here you have to play very well and we did. It doesn't depend on United any more - it depends on us," Mancini said, after City had beaten Newcastle 2-0 at St James' Park, in a report by The Sun.
If City do win the title, they will have completed a remarkable turnaround in fortunes. As recently as a month ago, rivals Manchester United were eight points clear at the top. Prior to that, in what has been an exciting title race, City were in front, curiously, by the same eight point margin, before succumbing to incessant pressure from Sir Alex Ferguson and his team.
All through the closing stages of the season, as City and United traded blows, Mancini steadfastly refused to consider his club as favourites, even after United dropped points against Wigan and Everton. In fact, even last week, ahead of the Manchester derby that City won 1-0 to go ahead on goal difference, Mancini was quoted in a Goal.com report as saying United were favourites.
"It is not finished. If we think it is finished, we will be making a big mistake. United are the favourites. They have easy games. They play against Swansea and Sunderland. We have two strong games, Newcastle and QPR. One plays for the Champions League, the other for relegation," the Italian said.
However, even if he does admit their favourites tag, Mancini is keen that his players not lose focus.
"We should keep our concentration like we have done the last five weeks. We have another game. It won't be easy because QPR are fighting against relegation. The players need to relax after this game, we have six days and then we have another game. It's not finished yet. Maybe we are favourites now. If we beat QPR we will be champions but we can't think about that now - we have another game and we have to prepare very well," Mancini emphasised in The Sun's report.
Mancini's tactic of keeping the pressure off his players by focussing it on United was one well appreciated by his squad.
"Perhaps Roberto has deflected pressure from us by saying the title is over. He has certainly taken the pressure off the players, which always helps because the pressure is always there between Manchester United and City. Yes, him taking the pressure off the players has really helped," Spanish winger David Silva said, in an earlier IBTimes UK report.
City will play QPR, at home, on the final match day, while United will kick off at Sunderland. Both games are on 13 May, at 2 pm GMT.
The equation is simple. City must, at a minimum, match United's result. The Red Devils, though, will need to better their local rival's result. If the two teams finish level on points, Manchester United must hope they have beaten Sunderland by a comprehensive enough margin to win the title.