Published February 11, 2013
| Sports Network
May 13, 2012 is a day that not only Manchester City fans, but soccer fans in general won't soon forget.
It was the day that City ended its lengthy title drought with a dramatic 3-2 win over QPR on the final day of the season as the Citizens scored two goals in stoppage time to snatch the title away from bitter rivals Manchester United.
The scenes that followed were memorable as City celebrated with unbridled euphoria, which was matched by the despair on the faces of the United players and fans.
It was the perfect storm of events as two giants of the English game spent the previous nine months jockeying for position at the top of the league, only for the title to literally be decided in the final seconds of the season.
Sort of like the New York City Marathon ending with a 50-yard sprint to the finish line.
A scenario like this does not often occur in other sports, which have a postseason tournament to follow the regular season, allowing for teams to do enough to get into the playoffs and hope they get hot at the right time.
In soccer, if you fall too far behind the lead pack, you get left behind.
And while this setup places greater emphasis on the importance of each game, it also leaves open the possibility of one team running away with the league and turning the final month into little more than a victory lap.
If you take one look around the top leagues in Europe, it looks like victory laps are in the future of more than a few teams.
This past weekend is not one that will live long in the memory, but it is one that saw the lead dog pull a little further away from the pack in most leagues and make us come to the realization that what we saw last May won't be duplicated again this season.
Prior to the start of the weekend, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini said it would be "easy" to make up the nine-point deficit on Manchester United that his club faced because they would close this current campaign out much the same way they did last term, with six successive wins to end the season.
But after watching his team lose 3-1 at bottom-half Southampton on Saturday in a game that saw City commit two terrible blunders, including an own goal from Gareth Barry that saw him expertly finish a cross from the wing into his own net, Mancini has changed his tune.
United's 2-0 win over Everton on Sunday saw the gap widen to 12 points, and even Mancini acknowledges that the prospects of overturning this deficit are slim, saying "12 points is too much at this moment."
But Mancini is not alone.
Borussia Dortmund has won the last two Bundesliga titles and appeared to be headed for another showdown with perennial heavyweight Bayern Munich this season.
However, Bayern has toyed with the rest of the league, and the club's 4-0 win over Schalke this weekend, combined with Dortmund's disappointing 4-1 home defeat against Hamburg, leaves the Bavarians 15 points clear at the top of the league.
Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp gave up on the title race following his team's latest defeat, and he has now turned his ambitions to other competitions.
"It is not possible to win the league, it is easy mathematics," Klopp said. "We now have 14 games left which leaves 42 points. We would have to get all 42 and they (Bayern) would have to only get 30. That is not possible, not with this Bayern Munich team."
Things aren't much different in Spain either as Barcelona stretched its lead to 12 points over second-place Atletico Madrid on Sunday, leaving the Catalans to basically coast through the final 15 games en route to their fourth La Liga title in five years.
The only question in Spain now is whether Real Madrid will overtake Atletico for second place.
Doesn't quite move the needle, does it?
Even in Serie A and Ligue 1, where Juventus and PSG own five and six-point leads respectively, does there appear to be a legitimate threat to the crown.
Juventus moved five points above second-place Napoli over the weekend and is simply a deeper side that is set up better for the stretch run, despite the potential distraction that playing in the knockout round of the Champions League could become.
PSG has continued to spend money and is superior to every other Ligue 1 side in terms of talent, and the club seems to have overcome its early-season malaise to win eight of its last nine games and open up a six-point lead.
Certainly there is time for some of these races to become more interesting, but if this past weekend is any indication, the gap is only growing.
This is not to suggest that the remaining three-plus months of the season will be devoid of interest.
The battle for European places is a big deal in terms of financial ramifications, as is the annual fight for survival.
Relegation battles are entertaining because it brings out the most primal instincts of a club, when anything that can help a team stay in the top flight is encouraged.
But there is no substitute for a down-to-the-wire title race in terms of drama, glory and heartbreak.
Those elements are things we hope every soccer season will deliver.
Unfortunately, it looks like this year those elements are in short supply.