The hotly contested Premier League title race could take another twist when Manchester City visit Arsenal on Wednesday.
City’s trip to London will be a mouth-watering battle of second versus third and could see either take the league lead from Manchester United if they fail to take three points against Stoke City.
City are behind United on goal difference with 41 points, while Arsenal are two points back and pressing for a top-two spot.
Both sides are in the midst of terrific runs of form, with City take all of nine possible points across the holiday period with wins over Newcastle United (3-1), Aston Villa (4-0) and Blackpool (1-0).
Arsenal, meanwhile, collected seven points from their holiday fixtures with wins over Chelsea (3-1) and Birmingham City (3-0) and a 2-2 draw at Wigan Athletic.
Gunners striker Robin van Persie opened the scoring at Birmingham, and admitted afterwards he is looking forward to taking on Roberto Mancini’s men.
“It is a big game. Man City has a great side and we have a great side as well so it’s game on,” Van Persie told ESPN.
The Dutchman’s return to fitness has been instrumental in Arsenal’s form of late, as has Cesc Fabregas finally shaking off a hamstring strain that blighted the start of his season.
Arsenal have gone unbeaten at home in their past four matches across all competitions, but City have not lost away from the Eastlands in over two months and will back themselves to take the points over the Gunners.
And with fixtures against bottom-half clubs Wolverhampton, Villa, Birmingham and West Bromwich Albion to come, a win at the Emirates could give City the grounds to make a serious push for a clear lead on top of the table by February.
But fresh injury worries could take their toll, with Italian starlet Mario Balotelli sitting out the win over Blackpool with a knee complaint and David Silva limping off in the same match.
City coach David Platt said the club is hopeful both will be ready to go against the Gunners.
“Silva got a bang on his knee and just opened his knee up a little bit,” Platt said.
“The pleasing thing was that he walked off the pitch and hopefully it’s not anything too serious.”
“Mario had a knee problem. In the early part of that operation, a bit of blood leaked in there. Every now and again he has a little swelling on it.”
Regardless of whether Balotelli’s injury keeps him out of Wednesday’s game, expect Carlos Tevez to come out firing after a horrid day against Blackpool.
The Argentinean ace made a mess of several gilt-edged opportunities, even apologising to the City faithful after one miss, and will be desperate to make amends on Wednesday.
Assuming Balotelli and Silva prove their fitness, Mancini has almost a full squad to choose from, with Emmanuel Adebayor (groin) the only notable absentee.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is still without the services of Thomas Vermaelen (Achilles), Manuel Almunia (ankle), Kieran Gibbs (ankle) and Abou Diaby (calf strain).