City anxious to avoid others' title collapses

It's 'squeaky bum time' and the nightmare scenario at Eastlands is that all their good work evaporates in a puff of panic - a fate that has befallen others before them

The ability of would-be champions Manchester City to withstand pressure will be put to the test when Sunderland visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Roberto Mancini’s side are trailing neighbours United by three points but can reclaim top spot on goal difference with victory over the Black Cats. There is no margin for error, though: with United having the chance to re-establish their lead 48 hours later at Blackburn, City know they simply have to beat Martin O’Neill’s side.

They also know many feel they are about to implode, that their mental strength will be found wanting in the rarefied atmosphere of psychological warfare against their battle-hardened rivals across town.

A foray into the minefield of mind-games by City executive Patrick Vieira was possibly ill-advised against so wily an adversary as Sir Alex Ferguson, whose response was merely to fling the “desperation” of recalling Carlos Tevez back into City’s faces. Having led the table so convincingly for so long, the prospect of finishing empty-handed will be gnawing away at City.

There is a whiff of anxiety emanating from Eastlands – hardly surprising in view of City’s worryingly underwhelming away form. But if they do miss out on the title, they will certainly not be the first team to blow what was once a substantial advantage. recalls some of the others.

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