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pep in the step It's Man City's title to lose...but have they got the head for top-of-the-table heights?

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Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring the opening goal of the game against Sheffield United

Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring the opening goal of the game against Sheffield United

Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring the opening goal of the game against Sheffield United

EVERY team that has held a lead in this season's Premier League title race has struggled to maintain the pace - and now we are about to find out if Man City can take the pressure.

The title is City's to lose now, and they could have a seven-point advantage over Liverpool after tonight's game with Burnley, after Jurgen Klopp's champions opened the door for them in recent weeks.

Now we wait to see whether Pep Guardiola and his players have what it takes to stay on top or whether they will bottle it again when the pressure is applied, as they have done on several big occasions over the last 18 months.

At least City know they won't have it all their own way now, as Liverpool confirmed their blip was over with impressive wins against the London duo of Tottenham and West Ham in their last two games.

Yet, that only repaired some of the damage that was done during last month's alarming run of form for Klopp's players.

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Pep Guardiola's  team are in a rich vein of form

Pep Guardiola's team are in a rich vein of form

Pep Guardiola's team are in a rich vein of form

Defeats against Southampton and Burnley, coupled with draws against West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle, kicked a hole in Liverpool's title defence and they need some help to get back into the race.

That help need to come from City, as the Guardiola's side are the only team likely to finish ahead of Liverpool this season.

Manchester United panicked when they went to the top of the table last month and they have been shown up as little more than top four contenders in their last two games.

Tottenham had a month at the top, but they have fallen off the rails badly in the last few weeks, while the same could be said of Chelsea.

Everton even had a burst at the top and their fans were giving me all kinds of abuse on Twitter for a few weeks, but they have gone very quiet now!

Now we get a chance to see if City can take the heat, beginning at Turf Moor tonight.

When I tell you the aggregate score in matches between these two sides over the last three seasons is 28-2 in City's favour, with a couple of FA Cup hammerings thrown into that calculation, it would suggest this might not be the night Guardiola's men slip up.

Yet how will they handle it if Liverpool beat them at Anfield on Sunday, before facing games against Tottenham, Arsenal and West Ham?

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Spurs and Arsenal have decent records against City in the last year or so, and West Ham are in good form, even though Liverpool dealt with them comprehensively last Sunday.

So, the next month will tell us a lot about City and whether they have the mental strength and quality to deal with the reality that they are now the title favourites.

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Sheffield United's Oliver Norwood heads clear of Man City's Fernandinho

Sheffield United's Oliver Norwood heads clear of Man City's Fernandinho

Sheffield United's Oliver Norwood heads clear of Man City's Fernandinho

They have injury problems of their own, as Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero are missing for the next few weeks and without those two, Guardiola's side has struggled for goals.

Yet, they appear to have clicked into gear over the last few weeks, with Liverpool's slide in fortunes giving them all the encouragement they needed to step into the opening that was created.

I'd expect City to win comfortably tonight, but their big tests lie ahead and it looks like Liverpool are ready to start the long pursuit to catch them at the top after the traumas of the last few weeks.

Part of me wonders whether Liverpool would be so far behind in the title race if Klopp had been allowed to bring in a couple of central defenders on January 1, as I suggested he should have done.

Yet that's not the way Liverpool's owners work, as they try to bring money into the club from player sales before they commit too much the other way.

The loan signing of Ozan Kabak from Schalke and a deal to bring in a lad in from Preston were hardly big financial commitments and Klopp now has to try and work his magic with the tools he has at his disposal.

At least he has some defenders to work with now - and that could mean Liverpool will get their midfield back in full working order ahead of the City game.

Jordan Henderson has been a big loss in the engine room when he was required to fill in as defensive cover, and the same could be said of Fabinho, who is a class act in his natural midfield role.

It's hard to see them getting through the rest of this season without a few more slip-ups and if that happens, City may be ready to capitalise again and cement their position as title favourites.

I expect Liverpool to beat Brighton at Anfield tonight and then all eyes will fall on the big one against Manchester City next Sunday.

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