Manchester City cannot afford to put a foot wrong in the latter stages of the season if they have any hope of retaining the Premier League title.
Starting with Newcastle on Saturday, Roberto Mancini’s men must embark on a faultless winning streak and hope Manchester United choke on their seemingly unassailable 15-point lead.
As unlikely as that may seem, Mancini will have his own personal ambitions at the forefront with the very real possibility he may not be at the Etihad next season.
City were woeful last time out in a 2-0 loss to Everton at Goodison Park and, realistically, will be eyeing a chance at silverware in the FA Cup final against either Chelsea or United, rather than any league ambitions.
Mancini will be hoping Sergio Aguero and skipper Vincent Kompany will be available following the international break while Newcastle anticipate the long-awaited return of livewire Hatem Ben Arfa.
Massadio Haidara will miss the trip to Eastlands after receiving a horrendous tackle from Wigan’s Callum McManaman in their last fixture.
Defenders Maicon and Micah Richards are unavailable as is ex-Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell for City.
Both sides have taken steps back this season after breakthrough campaigns in 2011-12 with Newcastle looking to avenge their 3-1 loss to City earlier in the season.