London (dpa) – Manchester City will be relying on two faces – one familiar and one new – to lead a final push as they try to overhaul Chelsea at the top of the Premier League, starting this weekend.
The return of Yaya Toure from international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations is a massive boost to a City side who won just once in six games without him.
That win came last time out, though, and City hope the addition of striker Wilfried Bony will be their required X factor as they try to win the title for a second successive year.
Seven points behind Chelsea with 13 games to go is a huge task but Bony, who signed in January and who has also been on international duty alongside Toure, is raring to go as City host Newcastle this weekend.
“We need to win as many games as we can because we need to make up seven points on Chelsea,” the former Swansea striker said.
“It’s not easy because I’ve just arrived from Africa and I will have had five days of training before we play Newcastle.
“I’m not 100 per cent just yet and as I say, I’ve only just arrived so we will see. (But) if I am needed, I have a good record against Newcastle and I’ve scored three goals in two games against them.”
“They are a good side and are strong at the back but they are coming to our stadium and we need to win this game.
“Four days later we’ll be playing Barcelona and we need to go into this game on the back of a strong performance.”
Chelsea, meanwhile, will hope Cesc Fabregas is over a recent illness as they travel to relegation-threatened Burnley.
Fabregas played most of the midweek Champions League match with Paris St-Germain but should be fresher for the trip to Burnley.
Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho has been shuffling his central defensive combination at times this season and captain John Terry admits the club have a difficult choice.
“Kurt (Zouma)’s done really well,” he said. “When he plays he’s been great and when Gaz (Gary Cahill) plays he’s been great,’ said Terry.
“We will rotate and there are enough games to share around. Obviously we all want to play every game, those two are fighting it out at the moment but it could be me at any time.
“What’s important is that we remain top of the league and everybody gets game time.”
Behind the top two, the battle for Champions League places is really hotting up with just five points separating Manchester United in third from Liverpool in seventh.
United face a tricky trip to Swansea while fourth-placed Southampton welcome Liverpool to the south coast. Fifth-placed Arsenal travel to Crystal Palace and Tottenham face West Ham.
Bottom side Leicester are away to Everton while third-bottom Aston Villa will be hoping for a boost from new manager Tim Sherwood’s first official game in charge.
Villa host Stoke City this weekend and midfielder Ashley Westwood says the former Tottenham manager’s arrival has lifted everyone.
“Training was electric,” he said. “Training was sharp, the lads were on it, if we carry that forward we will be fine. It has been good – the lads are all up for it.
“The gaffer has played at the top so hopefully he can give some good tips over.
“You can see that the way he is around the place, he is a strong character and I think that is going to be good for the team.”
Hull take on Queens Park Rangers and Sunderland host West Bromwich Albion in the weekend’s other matches.