Premier League Preview: Hull City v Manchester City
Manchester City return to Premier League action at Hull City in urgent need of three points to keep their title challenge on course.
In three weeks since Yaya Toure scored the only goal to secure a laboured 1-0 win over Stoke City, Manuel Pellegrini's side have claimed Capital One Cup glory against Sunderland.
But it has been a less impressive story elsewhere. Last weekend's shock 2-1 FA Cup defeat to Wigan Athletic at the Etihad Stadium preceded a more predictable reverse by the same scoreline at Camp Nou, as Barcelona ended City's UEFA Champions League campaign by a 4-1 aggregate margin in the round of 16.
That leaves only the Premier League on the table for a team that was boldly chasing an unprecedented quadruple a week ago.
City's fate remains in their own hands, although their absence from league action has seen them slip to fourth place, nine points behind leaders Chelsea with three games in hand, meaning they have little remaining room for error.
An upturn in form is therefore required. Having extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 20 matches with a swashbuckling 5-1 win over Tottenham at the end of January, City have won three and lost four of the past eight.
During the aforementioned purple patch the club burst through the 100-goal barrier in record time versus Cardiff City, but there have been just eight goals since the White Hart Lane win, with Pellegrini's previously prolific attack blunted on three occasions.
Fitness concerns surrounding Sergio Aguero have seemingly been a significant factor and City could once again be without the talismanic Argentine, whose troublesome hamstring flared up against Barcelona on Wednesday to force a half-time withdrawal.
Aguero's fellow countryman Martin Demichelis might have the chance to put an error-strewn few weeks behind him as the experienced centre-back is available one more following his Champions League suspension.
"Up to last weekend, we were the only team chasing four trophies, which is not easy to do," assistant manager Ruben Cousillas told reporters in the wake of the Barcelona loss.
"We are out of two, but have won the Capital One Cup and are still very much alive in the Premier League. The team is recovering and have been through some low times, but we are alive and we will fight for the title."
Hull come into the contest buoyed by a comprehensive 3-0 win over Sunderland that booked an FA Cup semi-final encounter against League One Sheffield United.
Goals from Curtis Davies, David Meyler and Matty Fryatt during a rampant second-half period made it three wins in the last four matches for Steve Bruce’s men, although they will look to atone for a 4-1 home reverse against Newcastle United in their last league outing.
Preparing to face a Manchester City side that has won five and drawn two of its last seven Premier League away matches, Hull are five points clear of third-bottom Cardiff City having played a game less.