Roberto Mancini believes how Manchester City emerge from January will determine their chances of success this season.
Having started the month with a hard-fought FA Cup win at Middlesbrough, City now move on to the first leg of their eagerly-awaited Carling Cup semi-final against a Manchester United side still smarting from that shock defeat by Leeds.
And the Italian feels the month as a whole will be vital as he said: "It is important we get through this month. If we can do that, the future for us is good because then we will have all the injured players back.
"Hopefully it will be possible for us to get into the top four. But it all depends on what happens in January."
A place at Wembley will be sealed by one of the old rivals in a fortnight, after which City will visit Scunthorpe in the FA Cup fourth round.
Three additional Premier League games, two of which are away from Eastlands, also have to be completed during a period when Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor will be absent at the African Nations Cup, while Shaun Wright-Phillips, Nedum Onuoha, Wayne Bridge and Joleon Lescott are all currently sidelined with injuries of varying degrees.
Mancini is making an effort to solve that problem by recruiting Patrick Vieira on loan. Although it appears Vieira's return to England is virtually sorted, Mancini does not want any distractions ahead of Wednesday night's game.
Cristian Chivu and Ivan Cordoba are two more players surplus to Jose Mourinho's requirements at Inter Milan who may end up at Eastlands.
To Mancini, the names being bandied about, plus a limitless number of others from elsewhere on the continent, are hardly a surprise. For now though, Mancini is concentrating purely on United, and helping City reach their first major domestic final since 1981.
"All the players want to join Manchester City," he said.
"That is normal with a big club who is going to have a big future.
"People are not only talking about Patrick Vieira, they are also saying Ivan Cordoba and Cristian Chivu."
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