Gareth Barry is confident Manchester City will be able to chase down Manchester United at the top of the table as the champions prepare to face Sunderland today.
Roberto Mancini’s team has responded to the 3-2 defeat in the Manchester derby earlier this month with consecutive victories.
That loss to their bitter rivals increased United’s lead to six points but second placed City managed to reduce the deficit to four over the weekend.
“When there’s a little gap it’s important that you don’t slip any further behind,” Barry said.
“If we can keep chipping away hopefully we can be there at the end of the season.
“It’s going to be a big Christmas and looking at the fixtures, they didn’t fall that kindly for us, with two away games with the distances we’ve got to travel.
“They’re tough games but we showed a great performance at Newcastle and we’ve got to do the same over Christmas,” he added.
For City, captain Vincent Kompany and Mario Balotelli may be fit enough to return to the starting line-up at the Stadium of Light. Mancini will be hopeful that left-backs Gael Clichy and Aleksander Kolarov can also overcome minor injury problems while Samir Nasri, Micah Richards and Jack Rodwell are all ruled out until the new year.
United raring to go
Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic believes the Premier League leaders’ improving injury situation will have a significant impact during the busy Christmas period.
United host Newcastle today and then face West Bromwich Albion before travelling to Wigan on January 1.
With such a hectic schedule, Vidic, who made his first start after three months out with a knee problem in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Swansea, knows it will be a major bonus to have a healthy squad.
Rio Ferdinand will be available again after being rested for the trip to Swansea, while Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa is set to return to training this week following a knee problem.
“We now have three games in the next nine days,” Vidic said. “Obviously we have a few players who are coming back from injury and they will be important for that period.”
Newcastle eased the pressure on boss Alan Pardew with only their second victory in 12 games thanks to a 1-0 win against QPR at the weekend to climb five points clear of the relegation zone.
Meanwhile, Newcastle winger Gabriel Obertan admits there is added incentive to do well on his latest return to Old Trafford.
The former France Under-21 international faces his former club keen to force his way back into Pardew’s plans after overcoming a persistent toe injury.
Obertan failed to make an impression under Sir Alex Ferguson and was restricted to just 13 starts in two seasons before a £2 million switch to St James’ Park in August 2011.