Manchester United will look to put even more daylight between themselves and Manchester City when they host West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, as the Premier League's busy festive season continues.
Speaking prior to the Christmas period, United manager Alex Ferguson had set his players the modest target of being top of the standings on New Year's Day, but his side are already disappearing towards the horizon. Wednesday's thrilling 4-3 win at home to Newcastle United left the 19-time champions seven points clear, and with second-place City facing a difficult trip to Norwich City, United could stretch their advantage by disposing of West Brom.
Javier Hernandez's last-minute winner against Newcastle left Ferguson beaming, and he will have more room to manoeuvre with his squad after injury and illness robbed him of key players against Newcastle.
Wayne Rooney sat out the game after sustaining knee ligament damage in training that will keep him out for up to three weeks, but Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic could all return.
"Ashley Young also got injured on Tuesday and Phil Jones got injured (in the 1-1 draw) against Swansea," said Ferguson. "They should both be OK for Saturday, and I will also have Tom Cleverley and Darren Fletcher, who are fresh. We couldn't risk Vida (against Newcastle) after playing his first game (at Swansea). He had a bit of soreness in his knee, which is only to be expected after being out for so long."
Manchester City's title defence was dealt a potentially decisive blow in a 1-0 loss at Sunderland on Wednesday, and Saturday's opponents, Norwich, have been beaten at home just twice all season.
The champions' odds of retaining their crown are lengthening by the week, but manager Roberto Mancini says he is not fazed by his side's seven-point deficit.
"We know United are a fantastic team and probably they will win every game, but the season is long and it is not important if it is six or seven or four points." City's setback enabled Chelsea to close to within four points of second place by winning 1-0 at Norwich and Rafael Benitez's side - 8-0 victors over Aston Villa in their previous game - also have a game in hand.