Pellegrini, in his first season in the English top-flight, is about to get his first taste of the unique demands posed by the festive fixture list and the Chilean is already frustrated that title challengers City must play on Boxing Day and again on December 28.

Those matches, against Liverpool and Crystal Palace respectively, come amid a run of four games in 12 days starting at Fulham on Saturday.

Pellegrini, having seen Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta join Micah Richards, Matija Nastasic and Stevan Jovetic on the casualty list in the past week, fears losing more players to injury.

"We have to play 26th and 28th, less than 48 hours. It is incredible that the games are so near," Pellegrini said.

"I think that to play two games in less than 72 hours is not a good thing, the players are not recovered in less than 72 hours normally.

"Playing after 40 hours, I think, is a very bad thing. It is a lot of games and in this case we are not in the best situation."

City, currently three points behind leaders Arsenal in fourth place, travel to second bottom Fulham hoping to transfer their free-scoring home form to a vital away game.

Pellegrini's team have hit 35 goals in eight home league games, but have won just two of their eight matches away from Manchester.

Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho admits he is starting to feel the strain of Chelsea's inconsistent form as his side head to Arsenal for a crucial clash against the Premier League leaders on Monday.

Mourinho is growing increasingly vexed by the misfiring form of Chelsea's strikers and the Blues boss has so far been unable to find a solution to a problem that threatens to wreck the team's challenge for the title.

Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba have scored just five league goals between them this term, leaving Mourinho under pressure to resolve the issue by making a signing in the January transfer market.

While a win for second placed Liverpool over Cardiff at Anfield on Saturday would knock Arsenal off the top, the result of the London derby between the Gunners and Chelsea will been seen as an indication of which club is more likely to last the pace in the title race.

A victory for Arsenal would take them five points clear of third placed Chelsea, who have already lost seven times in all competitions this season, and deepen the sense of gloom at Stamford Bridge following their surprise League Cup quarter-final defeat at struggling Sunderland in midweek.

In the circumstances, Mourinho could do with his strikers finally finding their shooting boots and he said: "Missing goals. It's always the same words. It's unbelievable.

"Even on the bench, I feel every time we miss a chance and the score is 0-0, 1-0, 2-1, 1-1, I feel the pressure.

"I feel that missing the chances, maybe later you are punished. We have this problem.

"In every match we lost in England, in the Premier League and in the cup at Sunderland, we were the best team by far.

"We create, we enjoy the ball, we were always very comfortable on the pitch, we had unbelievable chances to score to kill the game. We don't do it."

Arsenal will be without England midfielder Jack Wilshere on Monday after he was handed a two-game suspension for making an offensive gesture at Manchester City fans during last weekend's 6-3 thrashing.

That humbling result raised questions about Arsenal's ability to maintain their title challenge and the likely absence of French defender Laurent Koscielny, who suffered a deep gash in his knee just before half-time at Eastlands, is a further blow for Arsene Wenger's side.

Tim Sherwood will remain in charge as caretaker boss when seventh placed Tottenham visit Southampton for their first league match since Andre Villas-Boas's sacking on Monday.

Manchester United, languishing 10 points behind the leaders, host West Ham looking to build on their back to back away wins at Aston Villa last weekend and then Stoke in the League Cup on Wednesday.

Fixtures

Saturday (1500GMT unless stated)

Crystal Palace v Newcastle, Fulham v Manchester City, Liverpool v Cardiff (1245GMT), Manchester United v West Ham, Stoke v Aston Villa, Sunderland v Norwich, West Brom v Hull

Sunday

Southampton v Tottenham (1330GMT), Swansea v Everton (1600GMT)

Monday

Arsenal v Chelsea (2000GMT)