Wayne Rooney may be replaced for the Boxing Day game. Photo: AFP
The English Premier League season reaches halfway point with the traditional Boxing Day program, with Manchester United and Manchester City both looking for maximum points over the festive period.
United, four points clear of City at the top, will be confident of beating an ailing Newcastle United while champions City travel to Sunderland knowing it cannot afford to slip any further behind.
With seven points separating City from Chelsea in third, the title is already looking a two-horse race, even with 20 games apiece remaining.
But both the Manchester sides know they cannot afford to let their guard down and United will be wary of dropping more points after a 1-1 draw with Swansea at the weekend.
United manager Alex Ferguson has already hinted he will rotate his men for the busy Christmas program, with three games to play in a short space of time.
Wayne Rooney, out of touch against Swansea, could make way against Newcastle, with Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez standing by to replace him.
"The team won't be the same team in any of these games," Ferguson said. "There will be changes each game."
United trailed City at Christmas last season, overtook them in the closing stages then suffered the agony of losing the title on the final day.
Ferguson said he expects the title race to go down to the wire again.
"We have every right to expect a challenge," he said. "That's why I am looking at December as an opportunity to gather points and make sure we are top of the league come New Year's Day.
"We know there is going to be a challenge, it could come from Chelsea too but certainly City and ourselves will be battling it out."
City manager Roberto Mancini also needs as many points as possible before the likes of Yaya Toure leave for the African Cup of Nations.
Having left it until the last minute to beat bottom side Reading at the weekend, the Italian said he would like to breathe a little easier against Sunderland.
"It's more important to score early on in games - my heart is not strong for these late goals," he said.
"When you are in the last two or three minutes it can be difficult if you don't score in the first half when you have lots of chances."
Chelsea, buoyed by putting eight goals past Aston Villa to return to third spot, travels to Norwich, looking to maintain momentum.
"The team is still progressing and improving," Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez said.
"We are trying to adjust the little things still in every training session - the players have been really focused from day one, wanting to learn and improve - and to see them taking effect is very positive."
Four teams - Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham and West Bromwich Albion - are level on points in fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh, but with Arsenal's game off because of a strike by London Underground, the other three can take advantage.
Everton entertains Wigan, Tottenham travels to a shell-shocked Aston Villa and West Brom is away to relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers.
Eighth-placed Liverpool travels to Stoke City. Bottom side Reading faces Swansea and Fulham hosts Southampton in the day's other games.