Manchester City know they can do little but watch and hope this weekend as they await opportunities to get back into the title race.
The champions could again find themselves 15 points behind leaders Manchester United at the top of the Barclays Premier League by the time they face struggling Aston Villa on Monday. That was the deficit they faced prior to playing Chelsea last Sunday after United's victory the previous day and their rivals can strike another blow as they host Norwich on Saturday.
With just 11 games remaining there is little time to turn the situation around but manager Roberto Mancini has suggested cutting the gap to six points before the April derby trip to Old Trafford could reignite the battle. And City midfielder Jack Rodwell said: "We hope they slip up."
Yet although United were beaten by Norwich in November, they have not lost in the league since and Sir Alex Ferguson's men are in control of their destiny.
Rodwell added: "All we can do is win our games. If we don't win our games and United don't then we've only got ourselves to blame. We've just got to focus on our side."
Finishing second would be a clear disappointment for City after last season's dramatic title success but the club still remains in fine shape. There is still the possibility of FA Cup glory and, if 2012 was removed from the equation, a runners-up spot would be a best final position since 1977.
Striker Sergio Aguero believes there is plenty to build on. The Argentina international said: "With experience we'll be able to grow even more year by year and whatever happens this season, we will learn from it and use it to our advantage."
Mancini will give a fitness update on captain Vincent Kompany as he meets media to preview the trip to Villa Park. The Belgium defender has been out longer than expected after suffering a calf injury in the FA Cup fourth-round win at Stoke five weeks ago.
It had been hoped he could return against Chelsea last weekend but Mancini revealed he had also injured his other calf. The 26-year-old has a history of trouble in that area.
Mancini said: "It is not the same injury, it is a different calf. He has been unlucky and that means we are unlucky but we hope he will be back very quickly."