It may only be the 13th round of the Premier League season, but Manchester City’s clash with Chelsea on Saturday evening has almost become a must-win game following the champions’ defeat to title rivals Liverpool last time.
The Reds’ 3-1 win at Anfield a fortnight ago extended their lead over fourth-placed City to nine points, while closest challenger Chelsea and Leicester are eight points off the top on 26 points apiece.
It is rare that such a deficit is overturned and City’s crown already feels as though it is beginning to slip, but it is not unprecedented in the Premier League era.
Tipped for relegation, Norwich City were surprise leaders heading into December in the Premier League’s inaugural season.
They beat Wimbledon 2-1 to extend go eight points clear before a winless run of six games over Christmas and New Year saw them pegged back.
The Canaries would finish third, two points behind Aston Villa and 12 behind Manchester United.
The most memorable of collapses, thanks in large part to Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan’s fate-tempting “I would love it if we beat them – love it” post-match rant.
Keegan’s men had stormed into a 12-point lead in January with 15 games to go and still held an eight-point advantage over United at the end of February.
But a run of five defeats in eight games until April led to one of the biggest chokes in top-flight history, as United won 13 of their final 15 games.
Even still, Newcastle were in contention on the final day but ultimately lost by four points.
In Arsene Wenger’s first full season in English football, Arsenal trailed Sir Alex Ferguson’s side by 11 points with nine games to go.
The Gunners had three games in hand, however, won them all and beat United 1-0 at Old Trafford. It proved to be the difference as they pipped the champions by a single point.
This time it was Arsenal who blew a lead and once again it was United hunting them down.
The Gunners were eight points clear in March but United went on an 18-game unbeaten run and Arsenal’s penultimate matchday defeat to Leeds sent the trophy back to Manchester.
It wouldn’t take Arsenal long to pick themselves up, though, as they went on their famed 49-game unbeaten run soon after.
This title race is remembered for going down to the final seconds of the season as a last-minute Sergio Aguero winner against Queens Park Rangers sealed City’s first top-flight crown in 44 years.
But the contest had seemed all but over with eight games to go when United opened up an eight-point gap.
Defeats against relegation-threatened Wigan and away to City saw United waste the chance to claim a fifth title in six seasons.
The most recent significant comeback was also produced by City as they chased down Liverpool’s nine-point advantage.
Reds captain Steven Gerrard infamously led to a costly defeat to Chelsea before they capitulated in their penultimate game against Crystal Palace, surrendering a 3-0 lead with 11 minutes to go – and handing City a second title in three years.
Comebacks of the magnitude City now require are rare, then, although they are possible – particularly, it seems, when a side from Manchester is involved.
Defeat this weekend against Chelsea, however, would likely leave them 12 points adrift of Liverpool, a deficit that has only been overturned once before.