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City slickers take position for late ascent to league summit

The blue moon is rising at just the right time.

Manchester City remain in third place in the Barclays Premier League table but are considered to be the closest to the title given that they are just three points off the lead with a game in hand. Leaders Liverpool were knocked off balance last week by a defeat against second-place Chelsea and now City are expected to take advantage.

The mood within the City squad has lifted already, while their strength is illustrated by the goal difference in the league table. The Manchester club had an eight-goal advantage over their title rivals. It is a margin which could widen this evening in a match away to Everton.

A win at Goodison Park would take City to the top of the table, a position they have held only fleetingly this season. "Of course, when you just depend on what you can do it is better for all the players," said Manuel Pellegrini, the City manager.

"After we lost against Liverpool, maybe the mood wasn't the same. That's maybe why we didn't play so well against Sunderland. At the moment the motivation is very high, now it is important the performance also must be high."

Pellegrini is well aware that any more stumbles by his side would open leave enough room for both Liverpool and Chelsea to manoeuvre into a better position in the title race. Yet the Chilean does not want to concern himself with results elsewhere and is focusing only on his side's affairs.

"In football you never know, so the only important thing for us was to think about what we can do and the only thing we can do is to try and win our games," he said. "All the other things are speculation. Maybe the media know what the score will be in a lot of games - for me it is impossible to know."

He will be aware, though, that City have come unstuck before against a team known affectionately as the Toffees. Everton are clinging to the ambition of finishing in fourth place in the table this season - Arsenal are still four points ahead - a feat which would earn them a shot at the Champions League next term.

It is a dream which is fading fast, although a point at home against City will still guarantee a return to European football next season, albeit in the Europa League.

Arsenal, who play Sunday, will need to drop four points in their last two matches for Everton to stand a chance of catching them and making the Champions League. "We have 69 points and we want to beat that. We don't take it lightly," said Roberto Martinez, the Everton manager.

"We need six points because I still think 75 points will be very much an exceptional figure, wherever it takes you. The only thing you can control in football is what you can do.

"Seventy-five points in the last three seasons would have got you in the top-three places of the Barclays Premier League. We are not a team who are happy just to do enough, that is not in our nature."

Should they fail to qualify for the premier competition in Europe, then Everton can at least find solace in a rising stature at home. "We are coming out to carry on making everyone proud," added Martinez.

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