Man City eye Christmas number one and dream of title

London: For the first time in 81 years Manchester City are poised to be England`s number one at Christmas but whether they can push on to take the League title for only the third time is another matter entirely.

The freeze that wiped out the Chelsea v Manchester United and Arsenal v Stoke City matches this weekend could still account for City`s home game against Everton on Monday night but everyone at the club will be doing all they can to get the game played given the reward at stake if they should win it.

United, with a game in hand, top the standings with 34 points, with Arsenal and City on 32 and Chelsea on 31.

The prospect of City leading the way at Christmas has sparked the club`s various forums into life with fans already warming up their chants of "City, top of the league".

It is hardly surprising, as their acquaintance with the top four, let alone pole position, has been fleeting to say the least.

They finished fifth last season, their best since the last year of the old first division in 1992, when they were also fifth.

They were fourth in 1978, second behind Liverpool in 1977 and have to go back to 1968 for the last time they won the title -- their second after their initial 1937 success.

When it comes to being top at Christmas, City have to go right back to 1929, when the oft-quoted phrase "busy holiday programme" really meant something.

Having beaten Blackburn Rovers on Dec. 21 that year, City beat Aston Villa away on Christmas Day. Then they played Villa again at Maine Road the next day, and lost.

City, like every other side, played six games in 15 days over the Christmas and New Year period, but a run of one win in eight after their Christmas Day victory effectively ended their hopes of a first league title and they eventually finished third, 13 points adrift of champions Sheffield Wednesday.

In the 18 completed seasons since the formation of the Premier League in 1992, the team top of the table on Christmas day have gone on to take the title only seven times.

Norwich City, Aston Villa, Leeds United, Newcastle (twice) and Liverpool (twice) have all had their eyes on the prize when unwrapping their presents only to come down with the Christmas decorations.

All the current excitement is based on the assumption that City will beat Everton on Monday, which is hardly a given as David Moyes`s side have won on their last three visits to Eastlands.

Yet the very fact that City are right in the title shake-up at the halfway point shows that their limitless funding has turned them into serious contenders.

They still often give the impression of a group of big names who have met for the first time in the changing room five minutes before kick-off but the sheer depth of talent in the squad goes a long way to making up for the lack of "gel."

Their key man remains 10-goal leading scorer Carlos Tevez, who is expected to play on Monday and appear before the City fans for the first time since handing in his transfer request.

A huge crowd favourite before his public fall-out with "some individuals", Tevez has divided opinion among fans. Some are furious with him for what they consider his "greed and betrayal" while others are prepared to overlook virtually anything to end decades of trophy-free frustration.

The Argentine striker`s team mates certainly value his presence though, with defender Micah Richards saying: "We need him in our team if we want to achieve what we want to achieve. He`s our main man and our captain. Carlos is our special one."

Bureau Report