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.
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 Africa Cup of Nations, 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.
However, the situation is not exactly perfect, which is why the Italian feels the month as a whole will be so vital.
'It is important we get through this month,' he said. '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.'
Cup cracker: Benjani fired City through against Middlesbrough on Saturday
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