LONDON - Manchester City's first back-to-back home losses since the petrodollars began to pour in have started to erode the club's air of invincibility.
Although the setbacks both came in cup competitions, City had won only one of its last three Premier League matches before losing to Manchester United on Sunday and Liverpool on Wednesday.
"No one expected us to continue winning games without having a difficult moment," City assistant manager David Platt said Friday. "We can't accelerate the season by four months to see how it is going to turn out."
Going into Monday's match at Wigan, City still leads the league, although United and Tottenham are only three points behind.
Despite the FA Cup defence being ended by United, City is still in the hunt for the League Cup after only losing 1-0 to Liverpool in the first leg of the semifinals. That marked City's second straight loss at its stadium for the first time since 2008.
"We are still in the Carling Cup semifinal (with the second leg on Jan. 25) and our players are quite capable of turning the situation around, and 19 clubs would like to be where we are in the championship," Platt said at the weekly media briefly usually attended by manager Roberto Mancini. "It is not a bad position to be in — some crisis."
While City is still missing suspended captain Vincent Kompany, midfielder David Silva is due to have recovered from an ankle injury in time to face Wigan.
City could go into the match level on points if United beats Bolton or Tottenham overcomes Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.
United's cup victory at City on Sunday was a welcome distraction from its own troubles following losses to Blackburn and Newcastle.
"We need a good performance against a team that will battle for everything," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "Any team near the bottom of the table will do that, as we experienced at home to Blackburn."
Ferguson must decide whether Paul Scholes is fit enough to start against Bolton after the 37-year-old midfielder's shock decision to come out of retirement to help injury-hit United last weekend.
Tottenham is the form team, having picked up more points than both City and United since beginning the season by losing to the Manchester rivals.
"Spurs are not third in the Premier League because someone has walked through the door at White Hart Lane and slapped a bundle of money on my desk," Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. "City can pay players 200,000 pounds ($307,000) a week, it's unbelievable."
United, City and Tottenham have formed a chasing pack, with Chelsea now eight points adrift in fourth and Arsenal a further point behind.
Chelsea hosts Sunderland on Saturday and Arsenal is at Swansea the following day when Thierry Henry will be hoping to get a chance to repeat his goal-scoring exploits on Monday when he clinched a 1-0 victory over Leeds in the FA Cup.
Arsenal's 34-year-old top scorer has returned to north London on a loan deal from the New York Red Bulls during the Major League Soccer off-season.
"If you asked 10 legends whether they would come back, I am not sure they would have been brave enough," said Arsenal striker Robin van Persie, who was rested against Leeds. "I am sure he will get loads of games because I have seen him in training and I don't want too put too much pressure on, but he is looking really good."
Things are not looking good for Blackburn, which is last going into Saturday's match against Fulham. But Blackburn's Indian owners are backing manager Steve Kean despite fan protests.
"Most of the time the club, the board and the owners will give in after a couple of weeks and we, the managers, are gone," Fulham manager Martin Jol said. "But they have stuck with him and you get a different situation. I think this could be the first time probably in the history of the Premier League that a board stuck with their manager (under such pressure)."
Blackburn is a point behind Wigan and two behind Bolton in the relegation zone.
With Queens Park Rangers just a point and a place from danger, manager Neil Warnock was fired and replaced by Mark Hughes this week to stop the promoted club's decline, starting Sunday at Newcastle.
Also Saturday, Aston Villa hosts Everton, Liverpool takes on Stoke and West Bromwich Albion faces Norwich.