Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has conceded that a 12-point deficit to Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United could be too big for his side to overcome.
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The gap between the two Manchester giants remains at nine points following City's 3-1 defeat at Southampton, where Mancini blasted his side's performance as 'worse than poor'.
United can widen the gap to 12 points with a victory over Everton on Sunday and Mancini believes that margin could be difficult to close in the final 12 games of the season.
When asked if he was conceding the title to United Mancini said: "Maybe. 12 points is too much at this moment and we have not played well in the last two games.
"This is strange because we played the whole of January really well, I don't know why we played so bad today.
"Southampton are playing well and it is difficult to score against them - I don't think a team like us can do a performance like today."
City were second best for large periods of the game at St Mary's and fell behind in just the seventh minute when Jason Puncheon tucked away the rebound from Rickie Lambert's strike.
The reigning champions then became their own worst enemy as Steve Davis doubled the home side's lead after City goalkeeper Joe Hart allowed Lambert's shot to squirm through his hands.
Edin Dzeko reduced the arrears before half-time but a Gareth Barry own goal early in the second half secured a first win for Saints' boss Mauricio Pochettino and left Mancini ruing his side's performance.
Asked if it was a poor performance Mancini replied: "No, I don't agree, it was worse than poor.
"We didn't play. We played with maybe two players in this game and with 11 against two it is difficult to win."
Mancini also hit out at the midweek international programme and believes a number of his players returned to City's Carrington training base looking jaded.
All of the players came back Thursday night or Friday and when you have 16 players away on international duty it is difficult to prepare," he said.
"Sometimes the fixtures are ridiculous because they don't think about this but we played a bad game."
City are now an outside bet to retain the Premier League crown they secured in such extraordinary standards on the final day of last season and Mancini thinks he knows what is to blame.
"We need to work more," he said.
"Probably we think that, because we won last year, we are top players but if you want to stay on the top for a long time you have to work always and forget what you did last year."
Pochettino dedicated his first win since replacing Nigel Adkins last month to everyone involved with Southampton.
"I'm very proud and very happy for the team, who deserved the victory," he said.
"I'm very happy for all the people who work with Southampton and for all the people here at St Mary's today, it has been an incredible day."
The Argentinian also felt his side were fully deserving of the three points and restricted City playing their natural game.
"I have seen that we cut the connection between their lines and have not let them play," he said.
"It (the result) has a great value. The team has deserved its victory not least because of the three goals scored against Man City."
With all eyes on the top of the table it will not have slipped Pochettino's attention that Saints are now six points clear of the bottom three.