The fixtures just keep on coming for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City.
The dull draw in Porto this week was City's first of nine fixtures in a busy December that will see them complete their Champions League group stage, play a crucial Manchester derby, look to navigate another busy Christmas period and arrive to the new year in the best possible shape. Oh, and there's a Carabao Cup quarter-final just before Christmas, too.
Having sealed top spot in the Champions League group with a game to spare, Guardiola is expected to make multiple changes for next week's game at home to Marseille, before a trip to Manchester United in the league that is their trickiest Premier League fixture this month, on paper.
Home fixtures with Fulham, West Brom and Newcastle are favourable, while they will be looking to do better than last season when they travel to Southampton. The schedule has largely been kind to City, but Guardiola will be unhappy at having just 48 hours between the Boxing Day home clash with Newcastle and the trip to Carlo Ancelotti's Everton on December 28.
That is the final fixture of a difficult 2020 for City, and 2021 could hardly begin in a more difficult fashion, with a trip to Chelsea first up. After that, however, is an FA Cup third round clash with Championship side Birmingham, so City will be hoping to be able to use that game to rest some players.
Rotation will be the key in the next month, with little opportunity to train properly between games. So we asked our MEN Sport writers to look at the best way for Guardiola to approach the next block of fixtures - go as strong as possible to climb up the league, or rotate and put player fitness first, even if that might affect results?
Read what they decided below:
The good news for Pep Guardiola is that his Christmas gift has come early in the form of a very favourable fixture list over the festive period for City.
December is always a brutal month for Premier League clubs but this season it simply follows on from the two brutal months previously, which will place extra demand on squads of those clubs in Europe. City have an advantage though in the shape of their fixtures and smooth progress in Europe.
Next week's final Champions League group game against Marseille allows Guardiola to make plenty of changes now, with the added bonus that it involves no overseas travel. City's Premier League home games are also encouraging this month. They face Fulham, West Brom and Newcastle at the Etihad in December and Guardiola should be able to rotate players for those fixtures and still enough resources to make sure of nine points out of nine.
That will allow key men to be fresh for the big games in December, notably United away on December 12. That is sandwiched between the game against Marseille and West Brom. Then comes Southampton away, another tricky assignment which can take precedence thanks to the fixtures.
Guardiola could also go fairly strong at Arsenal in the Carabao Cup three days before Christmas, with City at home to Newcastle on Boxing Day. Two tough away games follow that, at Everton and Chelsea, but by then Guardiola should have been able to balance resources to keep players as fresh as possible heading into 2021.
At the risk of sitting on the fence, I see no reason why Guardiola can't rotate AND go strong when he needs to. The Premier League fixture list gives a few good opportunities to change things up and rest players when he needs to - and as it stands City have no long-term injuries. I've said before that this season's Premier League will be won by the side who manages the fixture list better, and gets the most luck with injuries. It won't necessarily be the best team, so City must take advantage of a period with good fixtures and a fit squad.
Manchester City have secured top spot in their Champions League group.
They qualify for the last 16 as group winners after drawing 0-0 with Porto in Portugal.
The Blues will resume their Premier League campaign on Saturday when Fulham visit the Etihad Stadium.
We'll bring you all the reaction and analysis from Tuesday night's match with our daily City newsletter.
You can get it all delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our daily newsletter - just submit your email address in the sign-up box above or follow this link - it's free and it only takes a few seconds
Guardiola can make widespread changes against Marseille, go full strength at United, and then rotate his squad until the new year to make sure no player is being overworked. The Carabao Cup quarter-final at Arsenal complicates matters a bit, and you would imagine Guardiola will treat that with respect in a competition he takes seriously. It could also serve as a confidence booster after a mixed record in games against the big six in the last year.
Fitness will obviously be the priority, as City will benefit from getting through this month with as few injuries as possible. It should also be a chance for Sergio Aguero to slowly be eased back so he is back to his best for the new year. Even if there are a couple of slip-ups, a fully-fit squad would be more important than maximum points between now and January 1.
The fixture computer has given mixed fortunes to City over the festive period but they have helped themselves massively by topping their Champions League group with a game to spare - giving Guardiola plenty of wriggle room to rotate his squad as much as possible.
Next week's final group game against Marseille, at home no less, should be taken full advantage of. Guardiola may, in the spirit of fair competition, be compelled to play a relatively strong side but that would be complete folly. You can't complain about the fixture pile up as much as the Blues boss has and not take advantage when it plays you a favourable hand. It should be 11 changes, Scott Carson in goal, academy players and those in most need of match fitness playing. That's it.
With the match not even a concern worth thinking about, it will allow City to concentrate fully on the Premier League and make up the six point gap to the top of the table.
The derby against United will no doubt be a tough game, but thankfully it is sandwiched between matches against two of the current bottom four, Fulham and West Brom, who City should have no trouble in dispatching, even with a heavily rotated starting XI. City have enough quality to field two teams that would finish in the top 10, so there's no reason for Guardiola not to utilise his squad against the weaker opposition to keep the most crucial players fresh for the big matches.
Things get tougher towards the end of the year and into 2021, with a Carabao Cup quarter-final against Arsenal and a trip to Chelsea intersected with challenging games against Everton and Southampton. This is when Guardiola will need a full squad available the most. If he can successfully negotiate the opening weeks of December without any injuries then his side will be in good stead going into a difficult period and, hopefully, re-mounting their title challenge.