(CNN) -- Jose Mourinho may believe the English Premier League title race is already over but reigning champions Manchester City kept alive their slim hopes of retaining the crown with Monday's 1-0 win at Aston Villa.
The victory cut the gap on arch rivals and championship leaders Manchester United to 12 points with 10 matches of the EPL season remaining, including a return clash between the top two at the beginning of April.
It was a disciplined display from Roberto Mancini's men, who owed their victory to a neatly-taken goal by Argentina international Carlos Tevez just before halftime.
Defeat left Villa deep in relegation trouble in 18th place with just 24 points in the bag.
While Mourinho's Real Madrid team were training at City's Etihad Stadium ahead of their Champions League clash with Manchester United, their temporary landlords were making their way to the testing fixture at Villa Park, knowing dropped points would end all hopes in the title race.
An even first half offered Paul Lambert's strugglers hope they could at least get something from the match and striker Christian Benteke was a threat throughout with his muscular presence.
At the other end Pablo Zabaleta rattled the Villa woodwork, but a defensive mistake just before the interval was to cost the home side dear.
Defender Ciaran Clark was robbed by substitute Edin Dzeko -- on after England midfielder Jack Rodwell went off with a hamstring problem -- and the Bosnian played in Tevez.
He cleverly dummied goalkeeper Brad Guzan and slotted the ball home.
After the break there was almost a repeat as this time Mathew Lowton was caught napping by Dzeko but the defender got back to clear Tevez's shot off the line.
Benteke continued to be a nuisance to the end, but City defended stoutly to move five points clear of third-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who had closed to within two after Sunday's derby win over Arsenal.
Mancini was delighted with his team's efforts. "I think it is very important to win this game. For us it was important to stay 12 points behind, the championship is not over," he told Sky Sports.
And he had a word of consolation for Villa. "I think they will stay in the Premier League," he predicted.
Meanwhile, in Monday's Spanish La Liga action, Sevilla won 4-1 at home to third-bottom Celta Vigo to move up to 10th place.
Striker Alvaro Negredo scored a fine hat-trick to take his tally to 13 in the league this season.