Bigspending Manchester City may have designs on dining with Europe's elite in next season's UEFA Champions League - but recent league form means they may yet have to sample another year of the earthier fare of the UEFA Europa League.
On Thursday, City will seek to steer way past Polish side Lech Poznan to consolidate their status as Group A top dogs in a game which will give coach Roberto Mancini a chance to give playing time to some of his fringe players. At the same time the Italian will take a chance to sharpen the axe and wield it above some of those who under-achieved in successive Premier League losses to Arsenal and Wolves.
Those setbacks have left City hanging on in fourth place, eight points adrift of leaders Chelsea and three behind local rivals United, whom they face next week. The losses also moved Mancini to state that "I do not feel the pressure" - but admit that his charges have to pull their socks up.
City have won two and drawn one so far in Europe to establish a three-point lead over Poznan with Juventus, who play whipping boys Salzburg, a point further back. The two sides of City's coin are amply illustrated by Emmanuel Adebayor, who scored a hat-trick against the Poles a fortnight ago on a rare start.
But if the Togolese forward was smiling then, he was scowling after the woe at Wolves and Tuesday he was forced to explain his difference of opinion with Vincent Kompany during that game. "Sometimes you have to shout and bawl to try and get a reaction from your team-mates and sometimes that means getting them worked up in order to do the right thing for the team," Adebayor told City's official website.
"That's what great teams do. It is all about passion and desire to do well and if Vincent and I are guilty of that, neither of us have a problem with it. The press have treated it as though there has been some kind of massive fall out, but it couldn't be further from the truth - these things happen all the time in football."
Adebayor's explanation came hot on the heels of team-mate Gareth Barry's apology for having a drinking session on a trip to St Andrews. Barry feels the knives are out for City. "It is a bit sad really. Every little thing is getting scrutinised."
Reds seek Euro salvation
If City have had their fair share of bad publicity in recent days, they are at least in the hunt for a Champions League berth despite three defeats in their ten games to date. Fellow Europa League travellers Liverpool went into their last European outing at Napoli joint bottom of the Premier League but their goalless draw in Italy means they have a two-point lead in Group K.
Buoyed by their win on Sunday at Bolton, which took Roy Hodgson's men into mid-table, the five-time European champions will expect to wrap up their passage with a win at Anfield, even without Joe Cole, who went off at Bolton with hamstring trouble. Full-back Glen Johnson is set to return against the Italians after four games out with a thigh injury but fellow defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos is doubtful with a groin injury and striker Dirk Kuyt is still out with an ankle problem.
Also in Group K, bottom side Steaua Bucharest will meet FC Utrecht, level on points with Napoli and just two behind Liverpool, who have five from their three games to date.
Elsewhere, two-time European champions Porto should continue their domination of Group L by beating Turkey's Besiktas, whom they beat away last time out despite having two men sent off.
In Group J, leaders Paris St Germain host German giants Dortmund, who despite fine domestic form are three points off the pace and two behind Spain's Sevilla, who host bottom side Karpaty Lviv.