Bernardo Silva concedes that Manchester City are going to need to be “almost perfect” from this point after seeing their grip on the Premier League title start to slip.
Pep Guardiola’s side captured the English top-flight crown in record-breaking style last season, racking up 100 points and over a century of goals along the way.
More of the same was expected this term, especially as the Blues burst out of the blocks in 2018-19.
City now sit third in table, seven points back on unbeaten leaders Liverpool and one adrift of Tottenham.
There is clearly much work to be done, with Silva telling reporters after a shock 2-1 reversal against Leicester: “We started quite well but we weren't able to play as usual and in the end they scored an amazing goal.
“We are not happy but we try to overcome the situation.
“Seven points to Liverpool is starting to be a lot, we are not playing as well as we want at this part of the season. We have to find an explanation.
“We need to start winning games but we can't rely on ourselves.”
City are back in action against Southampton on Sunday, before opening 2019 with a potentially pivotal meeting with Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium.
Maximum points from those outings is the target for the Blues, but even that may not be enough to see them close back in on the summit.
Silva added: “Even if we beat Liverpool now it won't be easy.
“We have lost two games that we shouldn't do if we are in a race for the title.
“There are a lot of games left and it's mathematically possible but we have to be almost perfect from now.”
While City prepare to head back out on the road to face the Saints, title rivals Liverpool and Spurs will be on home soil this weekend when they take on Arsenal and Wolves respectively.