Manchester City head into the crucial Christmas period with manager Roberto Mancini saying he will deliver more trophies for the club this season.
The Italian promised yesterday (Friday) that he would win either the Premier League or FA Cup in May. Achieving this goal would prolong an extraordinary coaching record in which he has never failed to win a trophy or qualify for the Champions League during a full season in charge at any of the clubs he has managed.
Victory for City at home to Reading today will close the gap on Manchester United at the top of the league to three points with Sir Alex Ferguson's side visiting Swansea tomorrow. The fixtures begin a run of four Premier League games in 11 days - 10 for United - which will help shape the title race.
Ferguson warned United yesterday it would take more than a six-point lead at the halfway stage to shrug off the challenge of reigning champions City but said that if they were still top on New Year's Day they would be "in the ballpark".
Mancini was more bullish, saying his team were primed for a fresh surge as he celebrated his third anniversary in charge at the Etihad.
"I think we will win the league or the Cup," Mancini said. "We have two targets and if we work better than the first six months and we forget what we did last year we have more chance to win the league.
"That is very important for us in particular, because we started to win two years ago and every year we have won a trophy. It could be that in some seasons you can't win the Premier League, but if you win the FA Cup, it's important to keep this habit.
"I always win. I can't do anything about this. I think in one season with Lazio we didn't win anything but our premier target was to take the Champions League place and we got into the Champions League."
Apart from Mancini's first season at City, when he arrived halfway through the campaign and finished outside the top four, his CV is unblemished. It is inevitable that run will be repeated this season, but it is trophies that will determine if the season is a success or failure.
"For us, it is important to win a trophy every year. We need to win more," he said. "Our target is to win two titles in a row. If we win this title it will be better. I am confident. I think it will be very important in December and January. If at the end of January we are very close with United we have a good chance."
Mancini recalled walking into what he described as a "war" in the immediate aftermath of Mark Hughes's departure in December 2009 and, although it has been an erratic season for the champions, the Italian pointed out how much had been achieved in so little time.
Although he would not predict if he would still be at City for another three years, he was sure the will of his club was for him to remain for the long term.
"I know one thing - that I work with a really serious man and really serious people who understand this situation," said Mancini. "They know that if you work hard, in the end you win, but there are some moments in football that also if you work well, you don't win.
"It is important for every manager to work with people like this," he said. "In football things can change in five games, 10 games. In Italy things can change after one game. But here may be in three or four months, six months every chairman can decide to change.
"But this not my problem because I work hard with these people who are really good and they always support me and the team. This is important."
Ferguson admitted that he was impressed by City's response to their derby setback with their crucial win at Newcastle United last week and said it was a "wake-up call" reminding United the hard work in the title race had barely begun.
"Absolutely, it was great. It's a wake-up call for us too. I thought for the first 20 minutes, they played really well," Ferguson said. "You see the stats from that game and it's quite amazing.
"Newcastle had more passes and shots on goal. But you watch the game and you said to yourself, 'I can't see Newcastle winning the game'.
"We have every right to expect a challenge. I think that's what we are good at. That's why I'm looking at December as an opportunity to gather points and make sure we are top of the league come New Year's Day.
"And if we are top of the league on New Year's Day, you know full well - and everyone else knows full well - that we're going to be in the ballpark at the end of the season.
"We know there are going to be challenges, it could come from Chelsea too, but I think City and ourselves will be battling it out."