Afternoon. No life-affirming preamble today, no thoughtful introduction, no lame jokes. Ok, maybe some lame jokes. All you need to know is that the title race is back on. Manchester United have done an Arsenal and drawn 4-4 at home with Everton having been 4-2 up, and if Manchester City win at Wolves this afternoon, the gap at the top will be cut to three points, with the Manchester derby to come next Monday. It was eight points two weeks ago. The race was done. Dusted. We were all writing City's obituary, questioning what Roberto Mancini had to do to keep his job. Instead United have let them back in. Would you back Terry Connors' Wolves to make this afternoon even stranger? No, thought not.
Since the calamitous defeat at Arsenal, when City were a disunited rabble, they have scored 10 goals in two games, beating West Brom 4-0 and Norwich City 6-1. Five of those goals have gone to Carlos Tevez, and it is now impossible not to wonder where City might have been if he had been available all season. The game at Arsenal ended with Mario Balotelli pressing the self-destruct button again, but despite the recriminations that followed, it might turn out to be the best thing that has happened to City all season. Suddenly, without the Balotelli circus dragging them down, they look like a side with a dead weight lifted off their shoulders. At Norwich, they were smooth, classy and clinical – just as they were at the start of the season.
The equation is now quite simple for City: win their last four games and they win the league. The math(sJez) is similarly easy for Wolves. Lose this and they're down; unlike City, there isn't going to be a reprieve. Not for poor old Terry, a rabbit in the headlights. When Frasier and Niles Crane opened a restaurant it ended in typically farcical fashion, the brothers managing to lose the entire kitchen staff on opening night. No matter, they'd just do it themselves. The night ends with the fire sprinklers going off and a car crashing through a wall. Wolves weren't wrong to sack Mick McCarthy. They just should have had a replacement lined up.
Mind games with Sir Alex Ferguson. "We've given them the initiative," he says. "It makes the game at the Etihad Stadium more important - it's the decider really. We have to go there knowing we are capable of getting a result. We need to get a result now at the Etihad and there's no reason we can't do that. There's been the expectancy from City that it could be their decider - it's our decider too. It's a big game. It's always a derby of the highest proportions and next week will be no different." Unless City succumb to Cityitis today.
Team news: Wolves are without injured goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, so in comes Dorus De Vries for his first league start. To face Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez. No pressure!
Wolves: De Vries; Foley, Stearman, Bassong, Ward; Kightly, Davis, Henry, Jarvis, Edwards, Fletcher. Subs: Ikeme, Ebanks-Blake, Johnson, Berra, Milijas, Zubar, Doyle.
Man City: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; Yaya Toure, Barry, Nasri; Silva, Tevez, Aguero. Subs: Pantilimon, Milner, Dzeko, Johnson, Kolarov, Toure, De Jong.
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)
No team has been so far ahead with six games to go and not won the league. It would be incredible if Sir Alex Ferguson, who could write countless books on how to handle run-ins, oversees a side that manages it. In the Premier League era, the only side that has come close were Blackburn in 1994-95. Eight points clear with six games to go, they would have lost the league to United but for Tim Flowers's bottle, a superhuman display by Ludo Miklosko and Andy Cole's finishing.
If Manchester City win here, as they surely will, will Roberto Mancini still be insisting they have no chance of winning the title?
The teams stroll out of the tunnel. Carlos Tevez has his focused face on. "It's liiiiiive!" growls Martin Tyler. He's still at it, the poor man.
We're off. Manchester City's exercise in shooting fish in a barrel begins, the hosts kicking off and attacking from right to left. Instantly Carlos Tevez shrugs off a weak challenge from Davis, charges at the backtracking Wolves defence and hammers a fierce drive not too far over the top from 25 yards out. City were nearly ahead inside 20 seconds. "Is there anything to be said for City's record away from home?" says Brian Kitt. It's not very good?
2 min: An open start, this one. Having escaped that early scare, Wolves attack and win a corner down the right. Kightly's corner is too short, but Clichy's clearing header is weak. It falls to Bassong and his effort is deflected just past the left post. Hart was worried there and quite possibly beaten. The second corner comes to nothing.
3 min: Last season, Wolves beat Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea at home. This collapse is arguably somewhat unexpected. I didn't have them down to be in this position at the start of the season.
5 min: Set clear by Tevez, Aguero troubles Stearman down the left, but the Wolves defender covers well to concede a corner.
6 min: From Nasri's corner, De Vries comes flying out to punch it away. He was under no pressure and really could have caught it. "Just for clarification, is this the place to come to vent my spleen when Liverpool invariably spend 90 minutes passing the ball sideways to no good effect against West Brom?" says Phil Sawyer. "Only there doesn't seem to be an MBM of that match." Well that's because Mr Roy's homecoming isn't on television. So yes.
7 min: This is a very open game, which will suit Manchester City more than Wolves. The home defence is caught horribly square by a simple clip over the top from Barry to Aguero, who's just managed to stay onside. A tight call, but it's probably right. Aguero holds off the attentions of Bassong, spins on to his left foot and then pulls a sharp shot inches wide of the right post. On the touchline, Mancini hurls a water bottle on to the turf.
9 min: "As a neutral it is great to see City back in the race, but you also know there is a grim inevitability about what is going to happen," says Paul Jaines. "I would put good money on an 89th minute equaliser for QPR on the last day of the season to deny them the title. You just know it is going to happen." The revenge of Mark Hughes.
10 min: When they go forward, Wolves don't look like a side that's going to be relegated today. But that's the story of their season. They're not awful, but they don't make their good periods of play count.
11 min: As if to prove the point, Kightly wins another corner on the right. It leads to a spot of head tennis in the City area, but it's eventually cleared by Lescott and from there, Wolves suddenly find themselves badly exposed as Aguero races away on the counter. City momentarily have a three on two situation, but Aguero's pass to Tevez sends his fellow Argentinian wide and the move fizzles out.
12 min: Wolves are playing like there's no tomorrow, because if they don't win, there isn't one. Jarvis wriggles into the area from the right and pulls a cross back, which finds Fletcher. He's going away from goal, so tees up Davis, whose careful but powerful sidefooter from the edge of the area is brilliantly pushed wide by Hart for a corner.
13 min: From which Fletcher heads Kightly's delivery back across goal and Stearman controls the ball on his chest, before sending an awkward overhead kick over the top. City look vulnerable from set-pieces. "Oops, might have given away there that the pictures I'm watching of the return of Mr Roy aren't on *ahem* the TV," says Phil Sawyer.
14 min: De Vries has to race out of his area and slide at the feet of Aguero to stop the menacing forward from getting on to a through-ball.
16 min: This should have been the opening goal for City. Silva and Zabaleta link up beautifully on the right flank, tiki-takaing their way around the static Wolves players. Zabaleta then plays a cute reverse pass inside Ward for Nasri, who's made a clever run from left to right. Through on goal, he drags the ball this far wide of the left post. That's a bad miss. City have had two good chances now, and have hit the target with neither of them.
18 min: Tevez has a swing and a miss from Zabaleta's cross. It falls to Aguero whose shot is blocked, before Barry's optimistic shot dribbles wide.
19 min: This is why Wolves are going down. Stearman should deal with a long ball over the top comfortably enough, but he fails to notice Aguero running in behind him. The defender's attempted header falls dismally short, but Aguero doesn't realise how much time he has. Instead of just bringing it down and stroking it into the net, he tries to lob De Vries with the outside of his right foot, and the ball rolls well wide of ther left post. What an absurd choice from Aguero. And what a let-off for Wolves, who should be 3-0 down already.
20 min: This is a thrashing in everything but the scoreline. Tevez finds Aguero on the edge of the area. He's just a blur of blue for the wheezing Stearman, who can do nothing but stand and watch as Aguero shifts the ball past him and then fires wide of the right post from 15 yards out. Shooting practice for City.
23 min: De Vries hasn't had to make a save yet, but he's been impressive when he's been called into action. Here he had to be quick off his line to read a wonderful defence-splitting pass from Nasri that Tevez was very interested in.
24 min: Another chance for City. It's like watching Chelsea v Barcelona. Perhaps it's too easy for them, the lack of a challenge leading to slackness in their finishing. This time it's Tevez's turn to run in behind the Wolves defence, but from a tight angle his low drive is well held by De Vries. That's his first save, but he really should have picked the ball out of his net by now.
GOAL! Wolves 0-1 Manchester City (Aguero, 27 min): And now De Vries does have to pick the ball out of his net. This is a magnificent goal, but it wasn't made by Silva, Tevez or Nasri, it was made by Gael Clichy. On the left touchline, the left-back adroitly nutmegged Kightly and then curved an undefendable pass around Bassong, who couldn't cut it out, and through to Aguero. This time there was no reprieve for Wolves. Having missed three already, Aguero took a touch and then calmly placed the ball past De Vries and into the bottom-right corner. Wolves are going down.
29 min: Aguero now has 22 league goals this season. The most any City player has managed in the Premier League is Carlos Tevez's 23 goals last season. The way this is going, Aguero could probably get to 30 if he really put his mind to it this afternoon.
30 min: "It would be easy to have a pop at journos who wrote off the title race (and perhaps also Real Madrid's chances of winning El Classico?) but how many non-gambling punters are willing to put their metaphorical balls on the line, Lawro style?" says Ryan Dunne. "As such I predict that today will see either a coupon-busting 1-0 win for Wolves or a pedestrian 5-1, hat trick for Tevez, City victory. And is it just me, or does "Mind Games" really not have the invoked connotations of Lex Luthor-scheming? It just makes me imagine Fergie and Mancini doing some John and Yoko , not the prettiest of mental images."
32 min: Aguero wonks a woeful cross behind the Wolves goal. He's rubbish.
34 min: Sebastien Bassong forgets that you can never rest when Carlos Tevez is around. The Wolves defender was too slow to release the ball just outside his own area and before he knew it, his pocket was being pinched by Tevez. From there, City managed to work a shooting opportunity for Tevez, but he curled one straight at De Vries from 15 yards out.
35 min: "With so many people prepared to affirm his skills and intelligence as a coach, Julian Lescott only yesterday, referring to Terry Connor as a "rabbit in the headlights" is pretty shitty," says Turner Burgess. You know what? You are so right. He's taken to the job like a duck to water. A record of two points in nine games since taking over smacks of a man utterly comfortable in his position. He should probably be manager of the year now you mention it.
38 min: Terry for England!
39 min: City are camped in the Wolves half. All part of the Connor masterplan though. Tevez turns and has a pop from the edge of the area. It's blocked. Toure then spots Nasri on the overlap on the right but there's no one in the middle to turn in his inviting cross.
41 min: The Wolves fans are ironically cheering their team for stringing a few passes together. At least they've still got their sense of humour. This has been such a miserable season for them.
42 min: "Seems most journos have also written off Utd's hopes of taking anything from the Ethiad," says James Francis Kenny. "Where the title goes this season rests with the Geordies." Everyone's second team is everyone's second team again. Apart from Sunderland fans obviously. And those of Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea.
44 min: "Even if City win the title, selling Nasri seems a better and better piece of business for us (Arsenal)," says Allan Castle. "Lots of twinkled toed cameos but in this match as in others he seems to serve as a buzz killer on promising City attacks. It's like he thinks, "ok this next bit has to be brilliant," and runs down a blind alley. Not sure we'd have improved on our current points total had we kept him. And we couldn't have afforded Santos." It's hard to judge Nasri's season. He's had plenty of ineffectual games, but did score vital goals against Tottenham and Chelsea. I'm not sure Arsenal are glad they sold him though; he's better than every attacking midfielder they currently have.
45 min: There will be one minute of added time.
45 min+1: Kightly's cross drifts straight through to Hart. Wolves remain short of ideas.
Half time: Wolves 0-1 Manchester City. Wolves are 45 minutes from being relegated from the Premier League. They need to score twice and hope City don't add to Aguero's goal. But unless City continue to be so careless in front of goal, that's not going to happen.
Wolves get us going again. They have 45 minutes to prolong the agony. It's not long before City have the ball again. "Since when were incompetence at one's job and 'looking comfortable in your position' mutually exclusive?" honks Phil Sawyer. "Many of us MBMers have held down steady jobs for years while all the evidence suggests we should have been sacked at the first opportunity. We didn't get where we are today through talent and diligent hard work, you know."
47 min: You wouldn't think it looking at him, but Aguero is astonishingly strong. From a deep position, Tevez clips a high pass forward for Aguero to contest with Bassong. The ball falls for Aguero, who shows great strength to fend off the attentions of Bassong. He has no support and the move comes to nothing, but still.
50 min: A change of pace sees Jarvis burst past Zabaleta, but his cutback falls to a City defender. Wolves can take encouragement from that moment though. "Is it true that Terry Connor only got the job because Avram Grant was unavailable?" says Robion Hazlehurst. "He after all is the expert in such situations."
51 min: Edwards, looking to kill time, effortlessly clips the ball out for a throw-in with no one near him. "TC has the look of a man who doesn't understand what the police are saying to him, but knows it's probably bad," says Elliot Carr-Barnsley.
53 min: On the edge of the Wolves area, Tevez pulls his foot back, ready to hit the ball on the volley from Nasri's deflected cross, but a Wolves defender emerges from nowhere to knock him off his stride. Wolves handily give the ball straight back to City, but Stearman gets in the way of Tevez's shot.
54 min: Wolves are starting to get physical with City and they don't like it. Silva wants a free-kick after being outmuscled by Henry. Nothing doing. But nothing doing for Wolves in an attacking sense as Jarvis's shot flies miles over.
56 min: If City aren't careful, they'll throw this away. Yaya Toure gives away a free-kick 40 yards from goal, picking up a booking. Kightly hangs it up to the far post where Bassong makes a nuisance of himself and nods it back across goal for Fletcher, whose clever header is tipped wide by Hart.
58 min: City are now struggling to the extent that Nigel De Jong is getting ready to come on. Roberto Mancini is clearly worried by the way Wolves have come back into this. "Is City's late surge in the title race really because of Tevez's return?" says Daniel Warnock. "Or is it more to do with United pissing off the footballing gods with those 'Champ20ns' t-shirts and bookies paying out?" You should never tempt fate.
60 min: Roberto Mancini reverts to his Fun Bobby persona, replacing David Silva with Nigel De Jong. Away at Wolves.
61 min: Wolves smell blood. Kevin Doyle is on for Dave Edwards. City need a second goal.
62 min: They were close to getting one straight away. Tevez rolls past Stearman and then slides the ball across the face of goal, but Aguero didn't read the cross, allowing Foley to put it behind. De Vries punches the corner away.
64 min: This is becoming exceedingly scrappy. But Wolves are still lacking conviction, and the home fans don't sound that convinced about the prospects of a comeback.
66 min: City have hardly played at all in the second half. Squeaky bum time.
67 min: "What?" says Nicholas Ayanleke. "No twitter handle? Seeing as the game's utterly predictable, I turned my sherlockian eye to other things." Here you go.
There's some gold there.
70 min: Yaya Toure, now in a more advanced position, drives to the right byline and turns the ball into the six-yard box. It's cut out by Stearman, but Henry gets in his way, leading to an after-you moment between the pair of them. Clownish, indecisive defending, but they get away with it.
70 min: A mistake by Henry lets Tevez in. He takes on Stearman, shifts the ball on to his right foot but the defender does well to get a last-ditch block in.
73 min: Doyle's persistence and Clichy's useless defending is rewarded with a corner for Wolves on the right. Kightly's corner is an abject disgrace.
GOAL! Wolves 0-2 Manchester City (Nasri, 74 min): Wolves are relegated. They are furious with the goal, but there wasn't much wrong with it. On the halfway line, Tevez was hauled to the floor by Davis, and the referee awarded a free-kick. From there, Wolves completely went to sleep. They were still arguing with the referee when Tevez took the free-kick, playing it to Clichy. By the time Wolves had realised what was going on, Tevez was running at their defence. City had two men over on the right, Nasri and Toure, and Tevez found Nasri with a perfect pass. He slammed a low shot past De Vries, hammering the final nail in the Wolves coffin.
75 min: Christophe Berra comes on for the injured Bassong; Adam Johnson replaces Tevez.
76 min: Adam Johnson nearly scores with his second touch. His first was to control a pass on the edge of the area and shift it on to his right foot, before his low skimmer was palmed aside by De Vries. That's an excellent save.
78 min: Steven Fletcher is replaced by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. Wolves must surely just be hoping for the final whistle now.
80 min: JUSTICE FOR MR ROY. It's Liverpool 0-1 West Brom, Peter Odemwingie with the goal. "Well, in news that will surprise no-one, in the other match taking place Liverpool have dominated possession, had innumerable chances, hit the woodwork several times, and have just gone behind to West Brom," says Phil Sawyer. "I despair, I really do."
82 min: Across the desk, Liverpool fan Gregg Roughley keeps tutting and sighing "Andy Carroll..."
83 min: City should have had a hatful today. The Wolves defence is pierced again by a lovely pass through by Johnson, one that was reminiscent of Clichy's assist for the first goal. Aguero advances on goal, but he almost has too much time on his hands and instead of just scoring, he tries to be a show-off and tricky his way past Berra, only to get it all wrong and lose possession. This title could come down to goal difference, so these shenanigans are not appreciated by Mancini.
84 min: What an effort by Wolves! And what a save by De Vries. Oh. Right. Zabaleta chips a cross into the middle and Stearman nuts a powerful header towards the bottom-right corner, bringing a smart stop out of De Vries, who has had a good game. From the corner, Toure heads just wide.
86 min: Kolo Toure replaces Samir Nasri. "You say that second goal hammered the nail into the Wolves coffin, Jacob, but I'd argue the nails were already firmly in," says Alex Smith. "City have merely turned up with the hearse."
89 min: Yaya Toure's tame cross-shot goes wide of the near post. "Rafa would have that group of players punching well above their weight," says Rowan. "Kenny has them punching below it." Are they even punching?
90 min: It's going to be the biggest Manchester derby since the last one.
90 min+1: "As this game is all but over, what do you think about what is happening at Anfield?" says David Wall. "Looking at their remaining fixtures you could see Liverpool not winning another league game (perhaps any game) this season. Could even Dalglish survive that kind of run, if only in the eyes of the owners if not the supporters?" Oh they'll never sack him. He'll either resign or be moved upstairs.
90 min+2: Appropriately it is now chucking it down. They call that a pathetic fallacy, literature fans. Yaya Toure spanks a rasping drive goalwards from 25 yards out, and it whistles just over the angle of post and bar.
Full time: Wolves 0-2 Manchester City. That's it. Wolves have been relegated from the Premier League with three games to spare. Their three-year spell in the top flight is over, not with a bang but with a whimper. This has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster, and although the fans are applauding their side off, there will be an inquest into this shambles before long. Manchester City have other things to worry about. They can hardly believe their luck though. What was an eight-point gap two weeks ago has been whittled down to a paltry three points. Their next game? Manchester United at home on 30 April. If City win all of their games, they win the league. It's on!