Edin Dzeko is confident he can fire Manchester City's challenge for the Premier League title in the absence of injured star Sergio Aguero. Aguero suffered a calf injury in City's 6-3 win over Arsenal last weekend and is likely to be sidelined for up to eight weeks. The Argentine forward, who has scored 19 times already this season, will definitely be missing for Saturday's visit to Fulham.
Dzeko has been rarely used this season by City manager Manuel Pellegrini, despite promises he would have a more important role than under previous boss Roberto Mancini. But the Bosnian international, who scored twice in City's 3-1 win over Leicester in the League Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday, is now hoping he is given a chance to shine up front alongside Alvaro Negredo.
"Sergio has had an amazing season, scoring a lot of goals, and he is an important player for us," Dzeko said.
"That's life and now we have to try to play games without him and try to win. This is very bad for the team but there are a lot of players who want to play.
"I am happy to score two against Leicester - that's my job. I hope it means I am back among the goals. When I'm playing, I'm trying always to score goals.
"I am a striker that has scored goals all my life, and I love to do it. When I get a chance I try to do my best. We have a superb squad and recently have scored a lot of goals."
Victory over Fulham on Saturday would leave City level with leaders Arsenal, who don't play until Monday's showdown with Chelsea, and midfielder James Milner believes the Christmas period will be a crucial period for their title chances.
"It's a critical time when you've got games so close in succession. It's important that we perform and use that squad," said Milner ahead of a programme which includes fixtures against Liverpool and Crystal Palace at home.
"The league table always looks very different going into Christmas than it does coming out. It is an important time and hopefully we can keep the pressure on our rivals."
Fulham defender John Arne Riise is confident the west London side can upset City, although the former Liverpool star concedes forthcoming games against fellow strugglers will have more of a bearing on whether the Cottagers can avoid relegation.
Rene Meulensteen's side, currently second bottom of the table, play Norwich, Hull and West Ham United after the City game. "It's not a game people will expect us to win but we're prepared to go out to try and get the victory," Riise said.
"We have to be compact and aggressive. The Cottage needs to become a fortress again - it should be a place where other teams don't like to come and play.
"It's a small stadium with a tight pitch and when we're playing at our best it can be very hard for the opposition."
Meulensteen has inherited a relegation battle from sacked predecessor Martin Jol and Fulham were beaten 4-1 at Everton in their last outing.
But Riise argued that the three games played under the new boss so far had been encouraging nonetheless. "It's disappointing but in the last three games we've shown what we can do." he said.
"The fans can see that something has changed and the team is hard working and aggressive.
"We're creating chances and we've got to give Rene some time to get all his ideas into the team but I think people can see he's had an effect already.
"We just have to keep going and if we keep playing like we've done for the last two and a half games then we'll be fine."