Mancini: Newcastle will be hardest
Manchester City's bid to wrest the Premier League title from neighbours Manchester United will reach a potentially pivotal moment when they face Newcastle United on Sunday.
Roberto Mancini's side currently sit top of the table on goal difference with just two games remaining after Vincent Kompany's header gave them a 1-0 victory over United in Monday night's vital derby meeting at the Etihad Stadium.
While City know that winning their last two games will see them claim a first league crown since 1968, barring amazing results in United's games with Swansea City and Sunderland, Mancini insists that United remain favourites due to his side's tougher run-in.
They travel to face Newcastle at Sports Direct Arena with the Magpies chasing UEFA Champions League qualification and fresh from their impressive midweek victory at Chelsea. And the Italian believes the trip to Tyneside is "another Champions League final" for his squad. He said: "Newcastle will be our hardest game, harder than United. It is strange but it is like this.
"They have had a fantastic season and are playing to get into the Champions League. Their manager is one of the best managers here and it will be a tough game. It is another Champions League final on Sunday. We have two, Newcastle and QPR.
"We have to keep a big concentration until 13 May. We have done nothing yet. We are at the top but we need to win two games. We need to play well and we need to score if we want to win. They (United) will get six points."
United, without the injured Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans, will host Swansea at Old Trafford on Sunday as they look to bounce back from their derby disappointment. Mancini had suggested that United's remaining games against the Swans and Sunderland would be "easy". But Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers says the Italian should be more than aware of his side's qualities after they beat City 1-0 in March.
Rodgers said: "What Roberto [Mancini] said was probably a bit tongue in cheek in fairness. I think what we have shown over the course of the season is our competitive nature. We might be a way down the scale in terms of many things at this level, but one thing that's guaranteed is that when you play Swansea City it's going to be a competitive game and a difficult game. I'm sure Roberto knows that."
Final hurdles in sight
In Saturday's only game Arsenal will look to take a step closer to guaranteeing Champions League football when they host Norwich City at the Emirates Stadium, with rivals Newcastle hosting City and Tottenham Hotspur travelling to Aston Villa on Sunday.
Bolton Wanderer's bid to avoid relegation faces another critical test as they host a West Bromwich Albion side preparing for manager Roy Hodgson's exit after he agreed to become the new England boss, while Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic meet in another crunch clash on Monday.
QPR, above the drop zone on goal difference, are also in desperate need of points as they entertain Stoke City, while Fulham meet Sunderland and relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers welcome in-form Everton to Molineux.