Manchester City's bid to reel in English Premier League leaders Manchester United has been jeopardised by injuries to key players as they prepare to open their Christmas campaign at home to Reading tomorrow.
Six points off the pace after their 3-2 loss in the Manchester derby, the champions could lose captain Vincent Kompany and midfielder Samir Nasri.
Kompany limped out of the derby with a groin injury, while Nasri picked up a similar injury in the game and looks set to be out for two weeks, potentially ruling him out of City's entire festive programme.
To compound matters for coach Roberto Mancini, central midfielder Jack Rodwell has revealed he will probably be out of action until early January due to a hamstring injury.
Injuries aside, Mancini will expect his side to take all three points at home to a Reading team who were thrashed 5-2 at home by Arsenal on Monday.
City can close to within three points of top spot if they beat Reading, with United not in action until their lunchtime trip to Swansea City on Monday.
The festive season is a pivotal period in the Premier League, with teams facing four games in 12 days.
Arsenal face third-last Wigan Athletic tomorrow, when victory would provisionally propel them up to third place.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was given further reason for optimism mid-week when Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Ramsey all agreed on new contracts.
The Frenchman faces demands from supporters to improve his squad in the January transfer window.
"What is important is this team develops in the way we want to play. I have seen some interesting aspects on Monday night at Reading," he said.
"Let's see how far this team can go. If we can add one or two exceptional players, we will do it."
Tottenham Hotspur quietly stole into the top four last weekend and they can put pressure on third-placed Chelsea - who host Aston Villa on Monday- with victory at home to Stoke City.
Gareth Bale and Michael Dawson are expected to return from injury for Spurs, who will face goalkeeper Hugo Lloris' former club Lyon in the Europa League last 32.
Everton, who have slipped to sixth after winning just two of their past 11 fixtures, visit West Ham United, while West Bromwich Albion will also hope to buck a run of disappointing results when they host Norwich City.
Having finally secured a first win of the campaign at home to Fulham last weekend, Queens Park Rangers bid to maintain their unbeaten record under new manager Harry Redknapp when they visit Newcastle United.
Liverpool, stunned 3-1 at home by Villa last weekend, host Fulham, while Southampton tackle fellow relegation candidates Sunderland.
An Argentine soccer official says Diego Maradona is a leading candidate to take over as coach of Iraq's national team.
Hernan Tofoni said the the Iraq football association was expected to offer the job to Maradona.