Was Leicester City humiliation the catalyst for Manchester City's title charge?
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

An easy start to the season

A 3-1 away win against Wolves had Manchester City fans purring at the thought of next weekend's game - Leicester City.

Despite missing the first game of the season against Aston Villa - with an extended break for both Manchester sides keeping them out of the first game week - Man City sat in fourth after a simple win at the Molineux

Kevin De Bruyne was on the scoresheet, plus started his assist tally for the season. With Sergio Agüero still suffering from injury, Citizens will have been pleased to see his successor, Gabriel Jesus, notching his first of the season, life-long City fan Phil Foden too.

Fans were looking ahead to the Leicester game.

Mauled by the Foxes

27 September 2020. Afternoon kick-off. Sun shining. 

The game started off almost too perfectly. Riyad Mahrez smashed in a stunner against his former club to give City the lead. After rocketing in a half-volley from 12 yards, it seemed this would be City's (and Pep Guardiola's) day.

Things are never that simple when playing against Jamie Vardy, however. And neither is the Premier League.

Two Vardy penalties, either side of a genius flick from the England forward, turned the game on its head. Not only had the striker tucked away the two penalties, but he also won both by causing havoc in the Sky Blue penalty area.

James Maddison then put the game to bed with an outrageous strike from 20 yards, after being allowed to meander towards the box unchallenged.

Nathan Aké consolation goal was cancelled out by, yet another, Leicester penalty. Unlucky for Vardy, he had been subbed off so Youri Tielemans had to step up to put away Leicester's third penalty of the match, and their fifth goal of the game.

2-5. At home. City were stunned. A reality check for the Citizens.

Guardiola's wounded men

The run of games to follow was that of a rollercoaster ride.

It was clear that City had not recovered from the shock defeat to Leicester. Six days later, they took on newly-promoted Leeds United - a tough game but one that City could use to get back on track.

It was a game of two halves. City dominated the first, Leeds battered the men in blue in the second.

Raheem Sterling's beauty could have been enough to seal all three points. However, Rodrigo capitalised on a handling error from Ederson, pouncing on a chance to poke home at a corner.

If the draw was not bad enough, fans took issue with how Guardiola handled the tactics towards the end of the game, when it looked as if Leeds could snatch a winner.

Instead of aiming for all three points, Pep brought on Fernandinho and Aké to conserve the draw, while taking Mahrez off in the process - one of City's main goal threats.

The 10 games that followed the Foxes, one of which was Leeds, consisted of four wins, five draws, and one very disappointing loss to Tottenham Hotspur.

Despite this bad run of form in the league, City were powering through the Champions League group stage, not losing a single game and only conceding on one occasion.

So when would Man City click into gear in the league?

Marching on

On 29 December, fans were finally allowed to be back in stadiums. Southampton chants bounced around St Mary's stadium as City took all three points away from a tough 1-0 away victory.

No one expected what came next - a record-breaking winning run of 21 consecutive games, which was eventually ended by Manchester United in the Manchester derby.

54 goals scored. 13 clean sheets. Eight goals conceded. It was the stuff of Champions.

But why had it taken until mid-December for things to click into place?

De Bruyne believes he knows the reason for City's slow start to the campaign, claiming the lack of pre-season took its toll on him, mentally and physically, as well as the City squad.

"It's better now. At the start of the season it was a bit difficult [mentally]. We also saw it in City where we only had eight days of vacation. And then there was the birth of my little girl. It was a lot for me at the same time," said De Bruyne in a press conference with the Belgium national team.

"But after a few months, we noticed that the pace had returned. We were better physically and mentally."

It may have been a frustrating start to the season, but City were in full-flow now. Leicester City this time around will be a different story.

Man City travel to the King Power stadium on the 3 April to battle it out against Leicester. A win could see City go 17 points clear of the Red Devils. However, the surrounding teams have one game in hand over City.

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