Despite there being eight weeks until the summit meeting between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium, you'd be forgiven for labelling the match a title decider already.
With the table beginning to take shape, both sides know the run in to that match-up on April 30th is just as important as their performance in the game itself.
Having maintained their two point lead at the top of the league they've held since the beginning of February, City face a run of games, that like it or lump it, will dictate if the Premier League title comes to the blue half of Manchester.
At this stage of the season, the cliche of there are no easy games normally rears it's ugly head, and in this season is no different.
City's remaining fixtures sees them take on six sides who are currently in the top half, including trips to both Arsenal and Newcastle United. United by contrast, play eight of the league's current bottom half with Fulham in eighth the highest placed team remaining for them bar the City showdown.
However, it's the next five games that should be of most concern to Roberto Mancini's men. This weekend is a true test of their metal, as they travel to the Liberty Stadium, where Swansea City have lost just once in the league this season; United the victors that day.
They then host Chelsea, whose players have reputations to uphold after the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas, not to mention the club's assault on the Premier League's top four. A trip to Stoke City is then followed by the hosting of a resurgent Sunderland and then the final game of a difficult quintet, against Arsenal who have overcome Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool of late.
United on the other hand have a ideal run to that derby game, with home games against West Bromwich Albion and Fulham sandwiching a visit to Wolverhampton Wanderers before a trip to Blackburn Rovers and the hosting of Queens Park Rangers, both of whom are fighting for their lives at the bottom.
After the run of games United have had to endure, which has included fixtures against six of the top half since the turn of the year, City would expect to be further than just two points clear.
With such a difficult run approaching, given City's record when falling behind in the Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson will be confident of having surpassed their neighbours come late April.
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