Stoke boss Tony Pulis rates Manchester City's performance at Fulham last weekend as among the best he has seen in the Barclays Premier League and he feels the Eastlands outfit are shaping up as real title contenders under Roberto Mancini.
City swept the Cottagers aside 4-1 on Sunday to move up to fourth in a congested table, three points behind leaders Chelsea and second-placed Manchester United.
The display certainly impressed Pulis, who expects to see Mancini's expensively-assembled side challenging for top spot right through to the end of the season.
"I didn't go, but I watched it and (Stoke assistant manager) Dave Kemp went to the game," Pulis said.
"I've seen them twice this year and they are just starting to gel together. I thought the performance at Fulham - I watched the tape again on Wednesday night - was absolutely first-class.
"They were very good, as good a Premier League performance as I've seen to be honest, especially away from home.
"They have obviously spent a hell of a lot of money and you need to do that if you want to win the championship - all the other clubs that have won it have spent massive money and Manchester City are only doing what the others have done.
"They get criticised at times for the amount of money they spend, but that is the market, the going rate. If they want to do it, they have to spend it and that is what they have gone out and done.
"I think they have got as good a chance as anybody at the top.
"There are five or six teams there that you can look at and say they have an outstanding chance, and I think Manchester City are just starting to recognise that they have got that chance."
Stoke will give a late fitness test to Jermaine Pennant.
Pennant came off with a hamstring problem only 11 minutes into last Saturday's 3-0 win at West Brom and although a scan has revealed the damage to be not as bad as first feared, the winger remains a doubt for the City game.
Defender Andy Wilkinson could also miss out due to a sore knee, but striker Jon Walters should be fit to play despite a recent groin injury.
Meanwhile, Mancini has told the disgruntled members of his squad that no-one at Manchester City can expect to play every week any more.
Shay Given, Roque Santa Cruz and Adam Johnson have all voiced their concern about not getting a regular game with City this season, whilst Emmanuel Adebayor's voice has become increasing persistent in expressing his displeasure.
Adebayor claimed earlier this week that a loan deal had been done with Juventus that would allow him to leave for Turin in January, although City sources insist the assertion is not true.
It does seem inevitable the #25million purchase from Arsenal will be allowed to quit at some stage during the transfer window.
However, with a packed programme approaching, right through to the end of the festive period, Mancini is calling for further commitment.
And the Italian has also pointed out that, having joined the quickening City bandwagon, highly-paid players must accept the downside of what comes with battling for major honours.
"They must understand that in a top team, it is impossible to always play," said Mancini.
"When a player plays, he must do well. That goes for Adebayor, Jo, Mario Balotelli, everyone.
"For Adebayor, probably this situation can change in January. But it depends. If we lose a striker, we must get another one.
"No player is happy when they don't play. But between now and when we play Arsenal on January 5 we have 10 games, so all the players will play this month and we need them to concentrate on that."
While a recall for Adebayor appears unlikely this weekend, Mancini will have to make at least one change because Pablo Zabaleta has been ruled out after picking up his fifth booking of the season at Craven Cottage.
Either Jerome Boateng or Micah Richards will take the versatile South American's place, the other likely to find himself sitting alongside Balotelli on the City bench.
Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.