Manchester City host Chelsea at Eastlands on Saturday with manager Roberto Mancini well aware this represents the first big test of his side's designs on dominating the Premier League.
Chelsea are unbeaten in the league this season and Mancini knows he must end the champions' winning run if his paymasters are to remain convinced they can turn their massive investment into trophies. He has already lost the chance of winning the English League Cup, after his gamble of making 11 changes to the side against West Bromwich Albion in midweek backfired.
But Mancini did so with the aim of keeping players fit for the game against Chelsea, managed by fellow Italian boss Carlo Ancelotti, in his mind. "I don't regret making the changes, I have big problems at the moment and we couldn't take any risks," said Mancini. "If I had more players available it would be a different team.
"We play Chelsea at 1245pm (1145GMT) on Saturday and have only got 12 or 13 players. The time for players to recover is very short. It needs to be three days, minimum. It would have been better if the Chelsea game was an evening kick-off.
"Saturday is more important, but if I had not so many players injured, I would have put out a stronger side (against West Brom). The FA Cup is more important. The Europa League is more important."
City are lying fourth in the Premier League, already seven points behind leaders Chelsea. They head into Saturday's fixture with a lengthy injury list, with Joleon Lescott (groin), Micah Richards (hamstring), Wayne Bridge (hip), Mario Balotelli and Jerome Boateng (both knee) and Aleksandr Kolarov (foot) all out.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have their own injury problems to contend with after their midweek League Cup exertions, in which they lost to Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge. Yossi Benayoun and Salomon Kalou - who along with John Terry and Nicolas Anelka were the only first-team players fielded against Newcastle - were injured in the 4-3 defeat.
The pair, along with Gael Kakuta, will miss the game against City, Tuesday's UEFA Champions League tie against Marseille and possibly next Sunday's Premier League match against Arsenal. There were concerns that captain Terry, who has just returned from injury, had also fallen victim to a knock after he lasted just 45 minutes.
But Ancelotti said the England defender will be fit and ready to face Manchester City. "He played without any problems; it was in the plan to play him for just 45 minutes," Ancelotti said.
"Kakuta had a problem on his leg after the tackle in first half while Benayoun's injury is his calf and Kalou hurt his thigh. We will know more on Thursday but they don't look good. They will miss the next few games."
Ancelotti echoed Mancini's thoughts when questioned on his decision to rest most of his first team in preparation for the game at Manchester City. He added: "The Carling (League) Cup is not our priority. We have a very big game this weekend. We wanted to give opportunity to our young players to improve their skills and rest some first-team players. I am not so disappointed."