Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has admitted that it will difficult for City to win the English Premier League title after dropping points at home for the first time in the league campaign against Sunderland on Saturday.
City are now two points behind bitter inner-city rivals Manchester United, albeit the Red Devils do have a game in hand.
United will travel to Ewood Park to battle Blackburn Rovers, who won the reverse fixture at Old Trafford earlier this season, on Monday night.
A win would create a five-point gap between the Manchester clubs, giving United the upper hand in the title race with just seven league games remaining.
“It’s hard [to win the title], but it depends on Monday then we have another seven games,” Mancini told reporters on Saturday.
“Like us that we did some mistake in the last game, also for United maybe can arrive at a difficult moment. Before the derby, it’s important that we recover two points.”
The Red Devils will play five league matches, including Monday’s trip to Blackburn, before they face City at the Etihad Stadium on April 30.
United’s other fixtures are against Queens Park Rangers (Old Trafford), Wigan Athletic (DW Stadium), Aston Villa (Old Trafford) and Everton (Old Trafford).
Meanwhile, City will face Arsenal (Emirates Stadium), West Bromwich Albion (Etihad Stadium), Norwich City (Carrow Road) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (Molineux Stadium).
Certainly both sides can drop points in these matches, but City surely haven’t the toughest overall fixture against Arsenal at the Emirates on April 8.
If United win at Ewood Park on Monday night, the pressure is on City to win at the Emirates Stadium next week.
Now then, if City fail to tally three points against the Gunners, United could go seven or eight points clear of their “noisy neighbors” next weekend.
In other words, City need to reverse their fortunes in a hurry if they are to keep up with mighty Manchester United in the title race.
“It is the correct result, the draw,” Mancini conceded. “I’m happy only for the last 10 minutes, for the other 80 minutes I am unhappy because we didn’t play very well.
“I don’t know why [we are playing bad]. In the first-half we are flat.
“It is normal when you arrive in the end [of the season] you should be tired sometimes, it’s possible. But why we did this in the last 10-15 minutes we should do in the last 15 minutes before.”
Can Mancini rekindle City’s early-season form in their last seven league games?