With Manchester City currently trailing Leicester City by 10 points, albeit with a game in hand, it may be a step too far for Manuel Pellegrini’s men to claw back and claim the Premier League title.
They have a dreadful record against the top sides and have lost ground on their title rivals. But City are known for finishing the season on a high and they may well be spurred on by a player returning from injury.
Kevin De Bruyne has started training and looks set to back in April in time for a potential Champions League quarter-final showdown. But another attacker, who has gone under the radar, is Frenchman Samir Nasri.
Nasri has been sidelined for a considerable period – his last appearance coming in a 5-1 win against Bournemouth back in October. He damaged his thigh muscle and tendon in the same month – meaning he has missed the bulk of City’s run-in.
But his absence has been notable and his return can only be a boost for the club. At times this season, City have been predictable in their play – culminating in poor showings against well-structured and tactically savvy sides.
Nasri offers a different type of option to speed merchants Raheem Sterling and Jesus Navas. He also has a fruitful relationship with David Silva on the pitch; something which was evident in the wonderful free-flowing football delivered in Pellegrini’s debut season in charge.
With Silva’s ankle still causing him some discomfort, Nasri could ease the burden on the Spaniard. It’s worth noting that the former Arsenal man has been omitted from City’s Champions League squad in place of Nigerian youngster Kelechi Iheanacho too.
However, there could still be time for Nasri to make an impact in domestic terms, in the Premier League. After all, he has quite the habit of doing so. In City’s first Premier League title win, he was a vital cog in the remarkable recovery – scoring a memorable late winner in a tight game against Chelsea at the Etihad.
And he was a key figure once again in the double-winning 2013/14 season, scoring crucial goals in key games against Sunderland at Wembley, and West Ham on the final day of the season. A stunning strike against Roma last season in City’s final Champions’ League group game is further evidence of Nasri’s knack for scoring big goals in big games.
It will be some feat for City to win the Premier League title, but it may not be a wise move to rule them out just yet. They have a tendency to peak at the ‘business’ end of the season and do have some of their key players returning at the right time. Nasri is a huge part of that. He brings an extra bit of invention to the side that has been lacking this season. But he is also one of the very best at retaining possession. The team’s game management has been extremely poor on many occasions – the devastating loss inflicted by Liverpool at Anfield is a clear example.
Nasri can help establish control in the City midfield, particularly in big games. And the big games do come thick and fast in the title run-in, as City have home games against both Arsenal and United, and also face a trip to a rejuvenated Chelsea side.
Granted, Kevin De Bruyne’s return to action will be a timely boost for City after his immense contributions this season. Yet Samir Nasri, who has spoken about planning to end his career at the club, can also make his mark on the team and help his side finish the season strongly.