MANCHESTER City cannot afford to lose another game and must hope that Manchester United "blow it" if the champions are to retain their Premier League title, according to David Silva.
United remain seven points ahead of their rivals after both won challenging fixtures on Sunday, but Silva believes they can be caught if City maintain the pressure.
The attacking midfielder, who was influential in City's 2-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates, says that despite the imposing lead there is time for City to repeat last season's feat of reeling in their rivals.
Asked if there was a sense at Manchester City that they could not afford to lose, he agreed, adding that they would need help from United to turn a seven-point deficit into a lead come May.
"The important thing is the next game. We talk about the game that we have coming up and we hope that they blow it, because it will let us be closer. If we lose, then suddenly the gap is 10 points, and that is when it gets really difficult. But if we keep fighting, we hope that they will falter.
"All we can do, whatever the gap is, is keep going, every game, and put them under the pressure of knowing that if they lose a game or drop any points, we will get closer to them.
"That works the other way, of course, too, because if we lose we will get further away, but we cannot think about that. We just have to continue as we are. The league is still there to be won."
While City have only the league and FA Cup to focus on, having been knocked out of the Champions League, Manchester United have a looming Champions League tie with Real Madrid, a game that Silva believes could be a distraction. "That could be an advantage for us, because they have an important game against Real, and we only have the league to think about."
City have won six of the seven Premier League games since their defeat in the Manchester derby, and despite tales of disgruntlement with Roberto Mancini and the travails of Mario Balotelli, are running into their best form of the season.
Silva said that little had changed apart from City's luck. "In the last few games it's not that we've improved particularly, it's just that we've had that touch of fortune which maybe we weren't getting earlier on, like in the United game, when they scored a lucky goal in the last minute. We are playing well and doing the right things, and then we are getting those moments of good fortune going our way now."
Defender Pablo Zabaleta shared Silva's analysis of what City needed to do to win the title. "We know we are up against a rival in United who are in a very good moment, and they have seven points more, but that is not much in this league," he said.
"There is still a long way before the title is decided and there is still a margin to lose and recover. We hope United have a few games where they lose some points and we continue in this route, taking three points all the time."
While City focus on the title, Arsenal are in a fight for a Champions League place. Captain Thomas Vermaelen acknowledged as much, but welcomed the return to form of Jack Wilshere, Arsenal's best player in a disappointing display at the Emirates.
"You can see since he is back; he is growing and growing. And I think at the moment he is at a good level.
"He is a world-class midfielder and can only be better. So I am really confident he will come back really strong."